If you’ve been in Christian circles long enough, you’ve probably heard someone say that we should love like Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I like to question nearly everything I hear. I know being kind and loving is the right thing, but I rarely hear why. There are many motivations to love others like Jesus, but I’d like to help you fix your gaze on a foundational one.
In Paul’s letters, there’s a recurring theme present in all of his writing. He constantly uses the word or phrase of being “in” Christ. But why would he say that? I think his emphasis on being in or united to Christ originates from his conversion story in the book of Acts. When Paul (or Saul) is on the road to Damascus, he has a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ himself. Jesus appears before Paul, knocks him to the ground, blinds him, and starts questioning why he’s persecuting Christians so violently. He uses very particular language when talking about who Paul is actually affecting when he’s hurting Christians by saying, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). Was Jesus himself literally being murdered or hurt by Paul? No, he had already ascended to the right hand of the Father by this time. Saying this points to the greater spiritual reality that he unites and remains with his people by the power of his own Spirit. Everything we experience in life, Jesus endured with us in every moment. He did this because of his great love for us, as Paul illustrates in the book of Galatians:
I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.
— Galatians 2:20
Every single step in our walk with God was marked by being united with Jesus, and us being united with him. His death was our death, his life was our life, and his love is our love. No moment in your life has been wasted because every moment has been shared by Christ himself. So rest in his gentle yet sturdy arms, knowing that you are eternally safe with him. He is with you, in you, and spurring you on to, through your life and devotion to the world around you, mirror the very love that he’s given.
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
— Luke 16:13
Recently I turned 52. 52! It’s a little surreal to think about that. It’s funny how age brings wisdom and understanding. Unfortunately, it often comes via mistakes, hurts, and scars. Many of my issues have flowed out of my natural flesh. I am an Enneagram type 3, which means I care deeply about what others think about me. I spent far too many years listening to the voices that do not represent the wisdom and truth of God. I have continually elevated the opinion of others to an unhealthy place.
This is really nothing less than slavery. I have allowed myself to be bound by the desires, demands, and whims of others. It’s a self-inflicted handicap that I so regret. With an innate (but fleshly) desire to be respected by the masses, it has been a constant battle to live my life to the “audience of one” that really matters. For the first 40 years of my life, I played to a much larger group of onlookers.
I recently attended my 30th class reunion and was struck once again by the amount of time, money, effort, and energy I spent trying to impress people that I would see twice in 30 years. It’s such an exercise in futility. Life is short; relationships are fleeting, but eternity is so long and so permanent. It’s simply a bad investment to focus on the temporal.
Once you realize this, you are ready to tune out the noise and turn up the direction, and affirmation, that God wants to give to each of His children. That’s me! A 52-year-old child who is prized and valued by Majesty. He alone sets my worth, and it’s ten times better than anything this world has to offer. Once I began to see it that way, I finally began to live. My advice to you: don’t wait so long. It’s truly a waste!
How did Jesus love? We first think of Jesus on the cross. After all, scripture makes it plain: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” and that Jesus did. Clearly, however, we are not asked to die for the sins of others but we are given the command to love them, as Jesus says:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” — John 13:34–35
Granted, loving others was not a new concept. Jesus wasn’t offering a new and radical rule for the disciples to know and put into practice. To “love your neighbor as yourself” had been heralded to God’s people some 3,500 years earlier (See Leviticus 19:18). Nothing new. In Jesus’ words, he lifts the commonly understood meaning of the word love to a much higher place in thought and practice. Jesus wanted his followers to know that genuine love is not about warm, fuzzy feelings, goose bumps and so forth, but about an inborn spirit of care and concern for others that permeates every fiber of our being and radiates from us to those around us. This love Jesus displayed clearly in his passion from the cross.
This is not a love we come by naturally, but supernaturally, through a personal relationship with Jesus. It is not for the feint or lighthearted, as it will require sacrifice, biting your lip, looking the other way and turning the other cheek. But it will be so worth it in eternal rewards. If you have yet to do so, reach out to Jesus today, and learn to walk as he walked, in faith and sacrificial love.
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored.”
— They’ll Know We Are Christians
Did I just give you a childhood earworm? Are you singing that song in your head now? It kept running through my head Sunday morning while listening to the sermon.
“We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.”
Do you ever look around the world and wonder where all the love and unity has gone? Just a quick trip through social media will reveal all of the keyboard warriors that, based on what they write, would appear to have no heart. I think the saddest thing to me is when I see someone that I know proclaims themselves to be a Christian, yet uses that platform to shame, belittle, judge, or condemn others. The last year or two have truly been a public display of that for all to see.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”
— John 13:34–35
Jesus, in his own words, gave us a new commandment. The greatest commandment. A single request: to love. Love like he loved. Let’s reflect on what Jesus did to show love. He sought out the tax collector. He ate with the filthiest of sinners. He sat with and touched the lepers. He performed miracles. He washed feet. He resisted the temptations of Satan. He healed. He resurrected the dead. He carried a cross. He wore a crown of thorns. He hung on that cross. He bled and suffered. He thirsted. He died. He laid alone in a tomb. At any time, he had the power to call down the power of heaven to do those things. But he did them, and he did them to show us what love looks like. What it really looks like.
And so this week, I challenge you. With everything you say and do, everything you type on social media, are your words loving like Jesus? What would Jesus do in the situation you find yourself in? What does that new commandment require of you in your situation? As followers of Jesus, we are to reflect his love for the world to see. We are to be set apart as his disciples. And he told us what will set us apart. It isn’t our t-shirts or our bumper stickers. It isn’t the volume of notes written in our Bibles, our playlist of worship songs, or our attendance at church events. We are to be set apart by the love we have for one another. Not just Christians. We are to show love to everyone, everywhere, every day, all the time. Yes, even those we disagree with. Even those whose actions disgust us. Even those who are living in sin. Even those who vote for someone different than us. Even those who make different decisions than us. The verse has no parameters on who we are to love and not love. We are to show the world what it means to have the love of our Savior living inside of us.
Will they know you are a Christian by your words? Your actions? Your good deeds? Your Facebook posts? Your social media comments? Your donations? Orwill they know you are a Christian by your love?
He guides me along the right path for His name’s sake.
— Psalm 23:3
A man was traveling and somehow got off the beaten path. He got turned around. He was lost and somehow found himself out in the country on a small Farm-to-Market road. He needed some help.
Up ahead, he saw an old farmer sitting on his tractor. The man stopped and said to the farmer, “I’m lost. Can you tell me where this road will take me?”
The old farmer replied, “Son, this road will take you anywhere in the world you want to go. All you need to know is where you want to go and when to turn and when to go straight.”
In Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, one of his chapters is entitled “Begin with the End in Mind”.
Where do you want to end up? Years from now, at your retirement reception or your funeral, what do you hope people will say about you? What legacy do you want to leave? Once we answer that essential question, we need to start making good decisions on a daily basis that will take us to our intended destination. We will not get to our hoped-for ending accidentally. That will happen only by making good decisions all along the journey.
On a long trip, it helps to have someone along with you who knows the way. Don’t try to navigate unfamiliar roads alone. You have a guide available to you. Ask guidance from someone you can trust. Ask God to help you make good decisions each day. That will help you get to the end, leaving a positive and lasting legacy that will point people to our God.
Continue on your journey today with your ending in mind. You can get to where you want to go from where you are today with God’s help.
They were glad when it drew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven.
— Psalm 107:30