Jesus wants us to love each other but He is particular about how we do it. He said:
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (New Living Translation, John 13:34).
Jesus wants us to love others not according to the way the world loves, but in the same way He loved us. The standard of love toward each other is the way God loved us through Jesus.
To understand this standard of love, we need to see how Jesus loved us. There are a lot of examples in the Bible, but we will look at a few.
One of the ways Jesus loved us was by choosing to love us long before we existed. Peter wrote:
‘God chose him as your ransom long before the world began…’ (1 Peter 1:20).
Long before you were born, long before you committed a single mistake, Jesus loved you and chose to be your saviour.
Jesus showed this kind of love toward his disciples while on earth. When he knew Judas was going to betray him, He showed His love for Judas by washing his feet. He did the same for Peter, when he knew Peter was going to deny Him and forsake Him.
What Jesus did for his disciples, He did for you and me? Paul wrote:
‘But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners’ (Romans 5:8).
God through Jesus showed his great love how? While we were of no use to him whatsoever, while we were not deserving, while we were rebelling. Moreover, Jesus didn’t just tell us He loves us, He showed his great love by taking the punishment for our sins (Isaiah 53:6).
Such is the love of Christ, the standard, the magnitude, the height and depth of His love. Only when we understand this standard of love, though not fully (Eph. 3:19), we can do the same for others. Paul wrote:
‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others’ (Colossians 3:13).
You can love one another, and have a forgiving spirit, not because they are deserving, but because Jesus loved you, and forgave you.
Another way Jesus loved us was by accepting us just we are. Paul wrote:
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7).
Jesus accepted us with all our guilt, imperfections, past mistakes. It doesn’t mean he approved everything we did, but He accepted us completely. He did this to show his love, forgive us and change us to be like Him. But first, He accepted us just as we are.
When you know God has accepted you completely, you can accept others. This doesn’t mean you approve everything everybody does, but you accept them in the same way Christ accepted you.
There are other ways Jesus loved us, but here’s my final point. He loved us by highly valuing us. Jesus said we are very valuable to Him.
“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Luke 12:7).
Two things make something valuable. First, value depends on who made it. Second, value depends on the price someone will pay.
We are extremely valuable because we are not an accident, but the Almighty God himself fashioned us.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10)
We are also valuable because of the price Jesus paid.
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Jesus valued us more than his life. That was the price he was willing to pay. Because Jesus did this, we can value, and esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
The secret to loving others is actually receiving God’s love.
“We love each other because He loved us first” (1 John 4:19).
Without receiving and experiencing, we can’t love others in the same way Jesus loved us. The Bible is clear, apart from Christ, “our heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
We hear often from our pulpits telling people to put faith into action, love each other, serve each other, be kind to one another, but telling people to do so without telling them they are loved, accepted, forgiven, valued, empowered is like telling people to transfer money without depositing money in their account.
When we are secure in God’s love, we will start making allowance for people’s mistakes. We will be more patient, forgiving, kind, bearing with one another. We will increasingly show grace and mercy to one another because God did the same for us.
The key to obeying Jesus’s command to love others the same way He did is for us to be secure in His love and grace. All this becomes possible, when we are in Christ and Christ is in us. When He is in us, He will come out in our attitudes, actions, and affections.