Now for the trick question: Do you love God’s people like you love yourself (Mark 12:31)? Enough to “lay down your life” for a brother or sister in Christ (John 15:12-13)?
Do I hear a bit of hesitation? If we’re really honest – yes, me too – our answer to the second question may not be as enthusiastic as our agreement to the first.
Lately God has reminded me about the nature of the love He calls us to embrace. We cannot separate our love for God from our love for other Christians.
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
1 John 4:20, NIV
I can say I love God… but if I don’t love His people, I don’t really love God with all my “heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30-31). If I really love God, I will also love His people.
But that’s asking too much, isn’t it? People can be really hard to love sometimes. They can be selfish, mean, and hurtful. How can we feel love for people like that?
The Greek word translated as “love” in Mark 12, John 15, and 1 John 4 is agape. According to the The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “agape love is capable of being commanded because it is not primarily an emotion but a decision of the will leading to action.”
We can choose to love those who are hard to love because God’s kind of love is not a gushy, emotional feeling, it’s an act of volition. We can choose to act loving even when we don’t feel loving. We can choose to serve, give, comfort, encourage, and help. And our fellow Christians can choose to love us too! In fact, one of the primary ways we feel God’s love for us is through His people acting in love towards us.
No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12, NLT
Is there a fellow believer that needs to receive God’s love through you today? How can you love them in a concrete way?