John 13:34-35(NKJV) 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This week we are continuing in our study of how to drive out the enemies that are keeping us from possessing our land of promises. Driving them out requires that we become aggressive in our actions concerning a number of areas of our Christian life. None is more important than our love walk.
Yesterday we focused on Romans 13:8 and the debt we owe as Christians. We do not owe this debt to people but to God. The Lord paid our debt of sin by acting on his love for us and sending Jesus to die for our sins. God has given us a mandate on how to repay this debt. We must pay it by loving other people with that same love.
Yesterday we talked about aggressively loving the Father. Today I want to talk about extending that love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The scripture above gives us some insight into how important the Lord considers this. Jesus is coming to the end of his time with his disciples. The things he tells them in the final chapters of John are very important. Here we see his attitude toward loving the brethren.
Yesterday we saw love as a debt. Today we must understand it as a commandment. Jewish people in that day were very conscious of the commandments of God. The law was a major focus of their whole culture. Jesus understands this and gives them a law that supersedes the whole of the Mosaic Law. He gives them a commandment to love one another.
What is a commandment? It is something about which you have no choice. It is not a suggestion. It is a mandate from the God of the universe and the only possible response to a commandment is obedience. We are commanded to love one another.
I believe if we want to drive out our enemies in 2012 we are going to have to get aggressive in obeying this commandment. We cannot have a theoretical obedience to the love commandment. It must be an actual love that is practiced in our daily interactions. That is why it is so important for us to be part of a local family of God. It is in the relationships we develop there that we have the opportunity to practice aggressive love.
Often God’s love or walking in love is thought of in grand principles. They are grand principles, but love by nature cannot be approached as just a principle. It is good to study what the Bible says about God’s love and what it means. Faith to walk in love comes from the Word. However, the only way to actually do love principles is to do them to and for someone else. Love must have an object.
We are willing to talk about loving God, but the Apostle John understood that this was not enough. It is easy to talk of loving the invisible God, but how do we prove our love for God? John tells us how.
1 John 4:20-21(NKJV) 20If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
It is by our love for one another that we prove our love for God. We cannot say we love the members of the body of Christ if we do not have any interaction with them. The place God has designed for this to happen is the local church.
I am part of the universal body of Christ. In some circles, it has become popular to think that is the more important thing. It is important to know that the whole church is the body of Christ and that we are all part of that one body. However, we do not practice love to the “universal body of Christ.” We practice love to those with whom we interact every day.
The first place we must apply loving the brethren is in our own personal families. If we do no start there, we will never love the body of Christ. However, the church is meant to be another dimension of family truth. A real local church is built upon relationship. The same rules of love that exist in family must be practiced in the church. It is in these two places that we learn to obey the commandment of love.
Often people use this excuse to avoid being a vital part of a local church. “I love Jesus, I just don’t believe in organized religion.” To those people I would say, “Neither do I!” I hate religion of any kind, organized or not. If you are part of a local church that is nothing more than a religious institution where people go to fulfill religious obligation, you are not going to a church that represents what Jesus intended to establish.
A true local church is not a place to practice religion. A true local church built upon the rock Jesus described in Matthew 16:18 is a place to practice love. It is a place where you must interact with other people. It is a place where we learn to work together, to pray for one another and to help one another. Paul tells us it is a place where we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15) In other words, it is a place we live life together and practice loving one another through labors and trials; through good times and bad times, until we begin to look more and more like Jesus every day.
In today’s verse, we find another reason loving one another is so important. It is by observing this love that the world will believe we are disciples of Jesus. John says the will know we are his disciples by our love one for another. Conversely, when we do not practice love to those who are already in the body of Christ, those outside have no reason to believe we are different.
God promised in Mark 16 that the Holy Spirit would work with us confirming the Word of God that we preach with signs and wonders. However, Jesus tells us in John 13 that the confirmation must begin before we say a word. It must begin with our demonstration of love to one another. This love will lead to a demonstration of the power of God.
We might think that the priority area for us to walk in love would be with the world. We should demonstrate the love of God to unbelievers. That seems like it should be more important and somehow more spiritual. However, what the Bible teaches is that love begins with God’s love for us (1 John 4:10) and progresses to our love for the brethren. Once we learn to practice God’s love on each other, we can practice it on those outside the church.
We are all flawed in our humanity. We will all fail in our love walk at one time or another. However, if we choose to consider others more highly than ourselves and decide to love each other through our weaknesses, something wonderful will be released into our families and our local churches. The presence of God will occupy our love for one another. The power of God will become more and more available and people who look on from the outside will begin to see something that will be so attractive to them that they will be drawn into the family of God by our love.
Do not minimize the importance of walking in love, first within your personal family, and second within the framework of the local church. You will find that this walk of love is the most important and powerful ministry you will ever do during your time on earth.