Love should be a ubiquitous characteristic among Christians. The scriptures are replete in calling for this emphasis on love in the life of every Christian. Jesus answers the Pharisees that love for God and others were the greatest commandments.
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 22:37–40 (ESV)
The world speaks of love but really they only mean acceptance. Worldly love is predicated on set conditions. In the church, love is much deeper. Love does not just accept people, it works for their best interest. Christian love should be a much greater love. The church is a place where worldly distinctions are melted away by an intense love fired by a common salvation, a shared hope, and the powerful indwelling by the Holy Spirit. It is a love that is active and involved. The early church father Tertullian wrote how the pagans noted the evident love Christians had for each other.
"But it is mainly the deeds of love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred."
Love is at the center of Christianity. God's gracious and merciful love for sinners is at the heart of the gospel. Once experienced, the Gospel brings a genuine love for God and develops a love for all men. Apostle John speaks about this truth in his First Epistle:
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19–21
Christian, you must be a person of love. Our great enemy knows the power of this love in our hearts, relationships, and churches. He does all he can to turn us from love to hate, from trust to doubt, from clear communication to suspicious gossip. He works this evil in our families, churches, and denominations.
God calls you to love others, which is a challenge because being a Christian does not free us from the hurts and misunderstandings of relationships. However, it does give us a different perspective. It provides us with hope beyond hurts. It teaches the power of forgiveness, especially as wretched sinners saved by amazing grace. The church's love is different from the world's love. The world can love its own, but we can love even our enemies. This love must be more than words. It must be a love that moves our actions and forms our words in all our relationships.
In the example of Jesus, we see that we must initiate love. We do not wait for others to act. True love compels us to love those around us. During this season of the year where everyone is thinking about Christ's incarnation, we are reminded that we did not go to God but that He came to us. He came to suffer and die for us. He came to defeat sin and death that we might be redeemed now and forever.
Love should compel you to work through broken relationships. How many families have broken and strained relationships? Are there unspoken issues and unresolved conflicts in your life? How best would Jesus have you love these folks? How do you need to go and love these people?
Love must be seen in the local church. Many churches have struggled in the last two years. Covid, Trump, and Race Issues have divided many congregations. These added to the usual struggles in the local church have shown in many congregations a lack of true love for each other. Too many have loved their rights and opinions more than their fellow Christians. It is hard, all of us have had to work through disagreements and conflicts in the church. We must keep loving and working through these. If we lose our love for each other, we start to mirror the world. You are not to give up your opinions, but you must have them and voice them in love. It should pain us to see congregations torn apart by any reason, but especially due to a lack of love for other christians.
Love must be seen in our denominations. Many denominations are going through difficult times. The issues are serious. Some cut to the heart of what we believe and others to disagreements on how best to live out the Bible. As church leaders, we should be setting an example of love in disagreements and conflict. We who speak of the infallible and inerrent word of God should live by it. Especially in conflict and division, we are to love each other. We must fight the urge to pick up the weapons and methods of the world. What a witness it is when we love in difficult times.
Christians, you must love! The Lord says it clearly in the Bible. I challenge us all to consider the Word of God and command to love those in our families, local churches, and denominations. May true Biblical love be a mark of who we are in these difficult days. May a watching world see our love for God, the church, and for them.