LOVE ONE ANOTHER
Reading: 1 John 3: 1-12
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15.12)
Christ’s command is that we should love one another, which seems such an obvious thing for us to do, and yet even at that we so often fail. It sometimes seems that it’s easier to be judgemental than it is to be loving. People say that they long for Revival, and yet fail to be revived themselves enough to follow Christ’s commandment in this respect. It’s so easy to love the people whom we know and like, but when it comes to loving those who we don’t like we have a problem. Yet Christ’s commandment is that we should love one another in the same manner in which he loves us.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour then we are also called to acknowledge Him as our Lord, and that means following His commandments and following His life-style. In other words, we are to become more like Christ as we mature in the faith.
When we are reconciled to God through Christ we become children of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16/17). This privileged position is open to every believer.
The Christian life is never going to be the ‘easy option’. There are many aspects of it which are easy for us to do, that’s for sure. We can read the Bible, pray, mix with other Christians, do our best to keep the commandments, and so on, but when it comes to facing up to the world in which we live it becomes much harder.
“Love on another as I have loved you”. That’s the Christian thing to do, because that’s what Christ Himself has commanded us to do. In a perfect world it would be so easy! However, we live in the real world, where resentment, anger, grudges and violence often dominate the daily news and impinge on our daily lives. We are told to love people as Christ loves us, and that means loving them sacrificially, not just on the surface. Christ loved us so much that He gave up His life that we might be reconciled to God by believing on Him and acknowledging Him as our Saviour and Lord. The love of Christ is a sacrificial love. It doesn’t come easy.
Every day we hear stories of people not being loved. We hear of people being killed, raped, bullied, terrorised, abused, divorced, sued, and these things happen to everyone, in the home, in the office and in the school, whether or not they are Christians. Even in churches there are examples of hypocritical attitudes, and areas of dissension. When you read the Bible, you’ll quickly find that what happens in the real world also happens in the lives of Christian. People are not getting along with each other as they should. Many are living with hatred, which the Bible equates as murder in their hearts. It seems like our world is overrun with the Cain syndrome. In short, real Christian love is rare. That’s a real problem. We have so few models of real Christian love. We hardly know what real Christian love is all about. Jesus Christ demonstrated and taught what real Christian love is: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16). Jesus meant business when he showed us what love is. Mankind broke the rules laid down by God, and Jesus chose to forgive, coming and die in our place. In his sacrifice we see the greatest example of love in action that is possible to see. The Bible teaches us in 1 John 2:2 “He Himself is the propitiation (the satisfaction) for our sins; and not only for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Love means allowing for growth through failure, looking towards future potential. Love means not expecting that other people will get it, the first time, and maybe not even the second time or third time. Love means forgiving people and knowing in your heart that people are worth it. Love is understanding that different people are at different stages of their journey, whether it be their journey through life in general or their Christian journey, and understanding that they will often need help along the way. Yet for so many people in and out of the church, their expectation is that real Christian people should get it right the first time. There is no allowance for failure. There’s no room to learn to grow, and this is how we get into trouble. In the absence of real Christian love ― love the way that Christ loves ― the church becomes restricting and graceless. Rules of how people are expected to behave dominate, and every failure, however slight, becomes ammunition to nail the perpetrators to the door. People may be shown the door instead of being welcomed through the door, simply because they don’t seem to fit the expectations of the rule-makers inside. Instead of the church seeking the lost sinner, it tells the sinner to get lost. This is doing things according to the world and not according to the love demonstrated by Christ, despite claiming to follow Him. How easily some people can become as exacting and calculating as the Pharisees, noting every infraction of the law, to the minutest detail.
In such a congregation the real experience of love, acceptance and forgiveness is almost non-existent, with the result that their version of Christianity becomes joyless and devoid of real hope. The example we have in this passage from 1 John is of Cain who murdered his brother because his brother was righteous.
The truth is that because of Christ’s sacrificial love we have the opportunity to be reborn. When we love Christ then we pass from the death of sinfulness into new life in Christ. His is the example that we have and His is the example that we must follow.
We are children of God! What a wonderful love God has bestowed on us that He should call us His children and we call Him our Father. Once we really get our heads around this concept then we start to understand what real love is all about. The love of Christ is a love that takes hold of us entirely, and allows us to share it equally with others, putting the concerns of others before our own for the sake of Christ. Jesus laid down His life for you. Are you prepared to do the same for Him? If you are then you will experience the amazing power that such love releases.
We are told ‘to love in action and in truth.’ Do you love others as Christ loves you? how are you laying down your life for others?
Could it be that we have not really tasted richly of God’s love? A heart that has not tasted the truth of Christ’s passion and the thrill of the prospect of the transformation that will be(3:2), will have little to give to transform what was hatred into love.
Look at others through Christ’s love. Love is always building up another person. Maturity is living with the tension of what people can be and what they are now. “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT). Love has the goal of looking after another’s welfare - by doing something tangible. It’s far more than words. We must see others but see each other as new creations (2 Cor.5:16-17) and not measure them by what the world thinks.
When we can learn to love as Jesus loves us then revival will be seen in us, and from this personal experience of revival can come the desire to spend more time with God in prayer. When we do this, constantly maturing in the faith, then we can pray for revival to break out in our midst, but to see this happen there need to be an even greater change of heart.
Whilst I firmly believe that Revival is a miraculous outpouring by God of His Spirit upon a people, I believe that the Church is responsible to facilitate it in the sense that it is when believers are totally serious about the call for Revival. The church must be in deadly earnest about praying for Revival, and must gather together in prayer as well as praying in private to call upon God to send His Spirit down. It is probable that none of us have seen Revival because we are content with things the way they are. We are content to live without Revival! What is needed now are Christians praying for Revival who are on fire for the Lord. Whilst there may be many who are smouldering I don’t believe that there are enough who are truly on fire. There is a complacency that stands in the way. The riches of the world shine too brightly so that people want to collect them like magpies collecting shiny baubles, and as long as such attractions are dominant then the Lord’s work falls into second place.
So can we hope to see Revival? Can we hope to see our nation rescued from the downward spiral that is gripping it, dragging it deeper and deeper into the pit of despair?
We can when we start to be obedient to all that God demands.
· Learn to love one another as Christ Himself loves us.
· When we insist on the true gospel being preached in our churches and chapels, and not the watered down, cheapened versions that are so often offered.
· When we value the privileges that come with being the children of God, and honour the responsibilities that accompany them.
· When we are prepared to pray in earnest; prayer that is accompanied by brokenness and pleading before God.
· When we give God the glory that belongs to Him, rather than seeking to take some of it upon ourselves.
Revival comes when people prepare themselves for it, pray earnestly for it and expect it. The first stage in such preparation is being obedient to all that we are commanded to do, and a priority in that is to love one another with a sacrificial love. Not only because we like someone, but even when we find it hard to like them Not because we want them to love us back, but because we want to improve their lives as a result of our loving them. Completely and unconditionally.
When we can do that then not only will our lives be changed but we will see the lives of those around us changed too.