“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus was being challenged by an expert in the Law, a Pharisee. This religious leader had devoted his life to learning, following, and teaching the Law God gave to Moses; the Law was a set of instructions enabling sinful people to live in relationship with a Holy God.
Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:35–40)
Jesus summed up the entirety of the Law and the Prophets with one simple word: love.
Love God and love one another.
Everything else falls under the umbrella of love.
“[F]or the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
This isn’t the first or the last time Jesus taught on the importance of loving one another. At the last supper, after Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus provided important final instructions.
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” (John 13:34)
Jesus doesn’t describe how to love one another. He doesn’t give us a list of things to do and say. He simply tells us to follow His example: as I have loved you.
Approximately 20 years later, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth. It seems they were having difficulty putting Jesus’ command to love into practice. Paul described what it meant to be a part of the body of Christ, how to use our spiritual gifts to help one another, and what loving one another looks like in everyday life.
Paul detailed specifically how to love one another. While 1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings and used to depict the love between a husband and wife, the chapter is actually written about the church and describes how we, as Christian brothers and sisters, should act towards one another.
Paul tells us what love is (patient, kind, rejoices in truth, always believes, hopes and endures) and what love isn’t (envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-seeking, angry, keeping a record of wrongs). (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) It is a detailed and challenging explanation of what it means for us to love one another.
We must not underestimate the importance of this love in our testimony of faith. Jesus said, “By this [love] everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Love distinguishes us from others.
Love marks us as Jesus’ followers.
Love is our uniform and Christ-followers.
Just like the church in Corinth in the first century, we struggle to love one another the way Jesus commanded and modeled, because let’s be honest, some people are difficult to love. (Not you, of course.) And, often our culture (and even our churches) seem to value being right above being loving.
I don’t know whether it is because of the prevalence of social media, the 24-hour news cycle, or the challenging global circumstances, but it feels like every little issue the world faces has become a wall to divide us or a soapbox to stand on. We feel obligated to ‘cancel’ anyone we disagree with. We stand on moral high ground and either passionately protest or quietly withdraw to protect ourselves from all the evil people on the other side of the dividing line. We are at war, and the weapon of choice is hate.
Jesus teaches us to “Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27–28)
Pause and read that verse again.
The command to love one another is not reserved for people who are easy to love, such as those who share our worldview and belief system.
It’s not just for people like us.
Jesus didn’t put any qualifiers on who can be saved when they put their trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Everyone qualifies for repentance and forgiveness, even the thief on the cross. Jesus loves all. Jesus died for all. And we are commanded to love all.
One of my favorite prayers is the one Paul prayed for the church in 1 Thessalonians 3:12.
“And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone[.]”
The only way we can come close to following Jesus’ command to love one another is by prayerfully asking God to increase our love until it overflows.
May Christ’s love run through us into our family dinners, workstations, and hair salons.
May His love overflow into the school pick-up line, the grocery check-out, and after-church conversations.
May His love be abundant in our Facebook shares, our email replies, and our Instagram comments.
May the world see Christ’s love in us as we engage those of different faiths, different political views, different backgrounds and opinions.
May Jesus’ love overflow to our enemies through us.
May we put on His love like a uniform distinguishing us as disciples of Jesus.
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
Authentically living out a life of worship to the God who rescued us from darkness requires accountability and intentionality. Join a GT POD and take the next step in your faith journey!