What Does It Mean to Love One Another?

Heart

This post is link three in a chain blog initiated by Alan Knox on the topic of “one another.”

Alan started us off by describing the mutuality of these reciprocal pronouns. Then Swanny reminded us of the universality of the command to love one another.

Who Must We Love?

When Jesus affirmed the command to love your neighbor as yourself, he specified that “your neighbor” includes even Samaritans. That may not mean much to us, but according to the Jewish mindset of that day, Samaritans were the lowest of the low.

They were of an ethnicity mixed with the heathen. They followed a different cannon of Scripture. They combined idolatry with the worship of Yahweh. And they were frequently composed of criminals and refugees.

Following Jesus means that we must truly love even the most wicked sinners imaginable.

But what does it really mean to love? There are a lot of wrong ideas out there.

An Emotion?

Love is often portrayed as an emotion. We tend to think of it as a feeling of good will toward other people.

It’s no wonder that we like to portray love this way. By this definition, it is easy to love everyone. It hardly takes a second thought.

“I need to love my enemy? Okay, I’ve decided to love him too! On to the next person.”

But that is not what is meant by love in the Bible.

Acceptance?

Another common thought is the idea that love means acceptance, tolerance, or avoiding offence.

According to this view, loving everyone means that we just accept them as they are. We dare not bring up any sins in their lives, because that would be unloving. We certainly dare not tell them that they need a savior, because that could offend those who believe otherwise.

Some may reply, “We should hate the sins but love the sinner.”

This is true. And lest we forget, we are all sinners. But it still doesn’t tell us what it actually means to love sinners.

Jesus Defines Love

Thankfully, we are not left to guess about what it means to love one another.

Jesus said, “In the same way that I have loved you, you are also to keep on loving each other” (John 13:34, CJB).

Our love is to be modeled after Jesus’ love. We are to love one another in the same way that he loved us.

Just two chapters later, Jesus said the same thing again. “Keep on loving each other just as I have loved you” (John 15:12, CJB), and he added, “No one has greater love than a person who lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, CJB).

John later repeated this theme.

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16, HCSB)

Does this mean that we must die if we are to truly love? Well, no, not exactly, but also yes.

Dying to Ourselves

There are different ways to die or to lay down your life.

We may be called to physically die for another person. Truly, this would be love. And if we truly have love, we should be willing to die.

But it can also mean dying to ourselves. We can lay down our lives in the sense of offering ourselves up entirely for service.

We can and must stop living for ourselves and start living for others instead.

True Love

True love is the deliberate decision to put the needs of others before your own, and it results in sacrificial action.

If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. (1 John 3:17–18, HCSB)

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15–16, ESV)

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.

He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3–8, NET)

True love means taking the words of Jesus seriously.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.

Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:27–31, NASB)

True love means submitting to one another. It means that we must give up our rights for the sake of others.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. (Galatians 5:13, NRSV)

How Can We Love Like This?

Such love is not something we can produce by our own efforts. Rather, this true love comes from God. It stems from our living in him.

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7–11, NET)

It All Comes Down to This

For almost every action we take, we have a choice. We can walk by the flesh, or we can walk by the Spirit.

If we walk by the flesh, we will act selfishly—seeking our own good.

If we walk by the Spirit, we will act in love—seeking the good of others.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16, NASB)


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  1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
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“Links” in the “One Another” Chain Blog

  1. Chain Blog: One Another” by Alan Knox
  2. Linking One Another” by Swanny
  3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another?” by Chuck McKnight
  4. The Treasure of ‘One Another’” by Jim Puntney
  5. This Is How the World Shall Recognize You…” by Kathleen Ward
  6. Accepting One Another in Love” by Chris Jefferies
  7. “One Another: A Meta-narrative for the Church”—Part One and Part Two by Greg Gamble
  8. Individualism and ‘One Another’” by Pieter Pretorius
  9. All Alone with One Another” by Jeremy Myers
  10. When It’s Okay for Christians to Compete” by Joshua Lawson
  11. Jesus Christ, the Corner Stone for One Another” by Peter
  12. Be Superficial with One Another” by Jon
  13. The Unmentionable One Anothers” by Alan Knox
  14. Loving More Fully and Widely” by Chris Jefferies
  15. The One Another Weapon” by Dan Allen
  16. “Corporate One-Anothering” Part One and Part Two by David Bolton
  17. The Last Revival” by Tobie van der Westhuizen
  18. Love: a ‘One Another’ Comic” by Dan Allen
  19. I Can Only Love You If…” by Rob
  20. It Was Lost in Translation” by Nelson
  21. Consider Others Better Than Yourself” by Chuck McKnight
  22. Who will write the twenty-second link post in the chain?