Jesus makes an astounding statement in John 15: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 ESV)
We hear that statement so often (beginning when we’re still in the crib for many of us) that it can lose it’s luster and magnificence. But, think for a moment about what Jesus said. He did not just tell his followers to love one another; he told them to love one another in the same way that Jesus himself had loved them.
Amazing. Incredible. Impossible. Commanded.
What kind of love was Jesus talking about? He was talking about the kind of love that God has for his children. Divine love. Sacrificial love. Complete love. Unconditional love.
Let’s look at just a few passages of Scripture that tell us a little about this kind of love:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)
While the fact that Christ died as a demonstration of God’s love is an important concept, it is not the main point of this passage. Instead, Paul is telling us something else about God’s love. He tells us that some people might be willing to die for a good person, but God’s love was demonstrated toward “sinners” (sinners like us). If we had read through the earlier chapters of Romans, we would have seen just how massive our sin is and just how much God would have been justified in rejecting us. But, those are the people – people who had completely rejected God – that God loved.
This is the kind of love that Jesus tells us to demonstrate: a love that is given to those who least deserve it, who can’t return our love, and who might even reject or oppose us. Jesus says, “Love those people like I did.” Wow.
Next, turn to the Old Testament and look at Psalm 136, where the following refrain is repeated 26 times, once for each verse:
For his [God’s] steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1b ESV)
I wonder if Paul was thinking about this Psalm when we wrote:
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8a)
This part is simple. God never stops loving, regardless of what happens. It doesn’t matter what we do, God doesn’t stop loving us. This is the kind of love that Jesus says we are to demonstrate to others – the same way that he loved.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Alan, sure, this is what God’s love is like. But, surely, we are supposed to love others in the same way. Right? Right?”
Well, it looks like John understood Jesus’ statement the same way that I did:
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might 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 propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11 ESV)
As John says, if this is how God loved us, then we should also love one another.
We should love even those who do not love us – even those who reject or oppose us. We should love by giving everything to them. We should love and keep on loving, regardless of what might happen.
Again… wow… Amazing. Incredible. Impossible. Commanded.