This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.John 15:12 (KJV)
Introduction – People Are Difficult
Church can be difficult at times. But you know something? People are difficult. And just because a church is made up of Christians does not make its members immune to harsh words, gossip and heartbreak.
We’re all still sinners living between the “already” and the “not yet.” None of us have “arrived.” (Rom. 6:12, 2 Cor. 4:11) This is one of the most important things I’ve learned about church, ministry and about myself.
Again, people are difficult. You’re difficult and I’m difficult. I’ve been bruised by people, but I’ve also damaged others too. I loath that. I’m sure you’ve felt the same at times too.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we hurt people and people hurt us. We’re all works in progress and boy do we need to be worked on.“God uses the church, and our relationships with fellow Christians in it, to further sanctify us and make us more like him.”
But thanks be to God that he works on us. He doesn’t forsake. We can keep running back to him for fresh starts each and every day. (Lam. 3:22-23)
In fact, while its not fun to be damaged or to damage others, and while we ought never to minimize the sin behind such actions, I’ve discovered that God uses such experiences to help us grow and become spiritually mature.
God works on us through the local church – God’s hospital. He uses the church, and our relationships with fellow Christians in it, to further sanctify us and make us more like him. All of this starts with God’s love.
In this lesson we’re going to learn what it means to love other believers as Jesus loves us – even when people are difficult.
The Transforming Power of Jesus’s Love
I’ve been built up spiritually in ways beyond anything I could ever have expected through the love that I’ve experienced by fellow Christians at my church.
I’ve learned that many Christians are quick to forgive and extend grace, even when I don’t deserve it. I cannot over-emphasize how freeing, restoring and transformative that kind of love has been to me. Like everything in Christianity, it turns your world upside down and right side up. It leaves me often in a state of grateful surprise.
Likewise, I’ve learned to do the same to others. To forgive, understand, empathize and show grace – to love them. Its not always easy, and I’ve certainly failed more times than I’ve succeeded, but we are commanded by Jesus to love one another as he has loved and loves us.“I’ve learned that many Christians are quick to forgive and extend grace, even when I don’t deserve it. I cannot over-emphasize how freeing, restoring and transformative that kind of love has been to me.”
This was and is his commandment. (“This is my commandment”) Its not optional. Under God we don’t love some in our church but not others. We are to love all, and not just with any love; we are to love them with the same love that Jesus loved and loves us with.
That’s the highest standard of love there is. For the Christian, to love the brethren is loving them with a love that is not of this world at all. Its truly otherworldly because only those in Christ can love like Jesus. Only the saved are in Christ. (Rom. 6:23, Rom. 8:1, 2 Cor. 5:17)
Moreover, it is a new commandment. (Jn. 13:34) Its a radical love to the world’s eyes. It was in Jesus’ day and it’s the same in our day. The world’s view of love is self-focused – wrapped up in emotions, feelings and selfishness. It gets more than gives.
On the other hand, real love, the love of Jesus, means meeting someone else’s needs, even when its inconvenient. Despite the other person’s flaws, how they have harmed you or how you have wronged them, you love them nonetheless. Real love (Christian love) isn’t selfish, it is selfless.
This radical love is different from the world in another way too. It has an entirely different purpose behind it.
When we love fellow Christians as Jesus commands, it makes us more like him, and those who receive the love of Jesus are made more like him as well. I’ve seen this happen many times. I’ve extended grace, even when I didn’t really want to, and it changed me.
Loving people in such a way makes us more perceptive of someone else’s needs. It helps us grow in knowledge, wisdom, sincerity and authenticity (Phil. 1:9-10) It fills us with fruits of righteousness as God through the Holy Spirit works in us. (Phil. 1:11)“Under God we don’t love some in our church but not others. We are to love all, and not just with any love; we are to love them with the same love that Jesus loved and loves us with.”
It also makes those we love grow in grace too. Just as we grow spiritually when someone loves us like Jesus so do others when we love them in the same way. Loving someone as Jesus loves them cultivates in them a deeper appreciation for others, and a greater thankfulness to God for his love and the people he has placed in their circle to care for them.
In every instance where we give or receive Jesus’s love, there is transformative spiritual growth for all involved as such a love teaches us who God is.
Again, this is a love far different from anything that we are naturally inclined to. Its a large task, but its the one that Jesus has set for us to obey for he is our ultimate and only example.
As we continue, we’re going to look at some of the ways that Jesus loves us, and how to apply such examples to the way we love our fellow brethren.
How Jesus Loves Us
Jesus loves us in spite of ourselves, even while we are still sinners. (Rom. 5:8) Because of Jesus, though sin abounds grace does much more abound. (Rom. 5:20) Do you love others even though they have sinned against you? Can you love them as Jesus does, by looking beyond their sin and loving them anyway? Such a love encourages fellowship, it says I love you despite what you have done and I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.“If we are to emulate Jesus by loving our fellow brethren as he loves us, then we must be prepared to love sacrificially.”
Jesus loves us so much that he died for us and experienced life on earth for us; he sacrificed for us. (Phil. 2:7-8) If we are to emulate Jesus by loving our fellow brethren as he loves us, then we must be prepared to love sacrificially. That means taking the time to put self on the shelf and serve others. It means loving someone in spite of how challenging they may seem. It means giving up your time and comfort for them.
Jesus loves us with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3) If we are to love like Jesus, then our love towards our fellow church members must be consistent and shaped by permanence. We ought not befriend and love someone as the wind blows or as we feel, rather we must love them always. There is no room for “fair whether friends” in God’s system. Remember, the world’s love is fleeting, but God’s love is forever. (Ps. 136:1)
Jesus loves us with a detailed love; he understands us completely. (Heb. 4:15) While we cannot fully know someone else this side of heaven, we can still seek to understand them and to love them with deep understanding and grace by putting ourselves in their shoes. Does your love for others reach beyond the superficial? Is it prepared to fully know others, even if that might be unconformable? Are you ready to allow others to love and know you fully?
Conclusion – New Year, Better Love
People are difficult. We’re difficult. Yet Jesus has saved us and commands us to love our fellow Christians as he loves us.
This kind of love is a powerful apologetic for a lost and dying world – a world whose love is shallow at best. Loving one another within the church as Jesus commands shows the world that we are God’s. (Jn. 13:35) It’s a wonderful means by which people can be drawn to Christ.
This love is radical. Its sacrificial, consistent, understanding, selfless and so much more. Its a high standard; in fact it is the highest. But as we have seen, loving others as Jesus loves us makes us and them more like him.“As we enter 2022, I encourage you to love the local church that Jesus has placed you in, and to love the fellow believers in your life as Jesus loves you.”
Its all part of God’s great plan of redemption for his church, for creating a bride for him, for the restoration of his kingdom, and for our sanctification for his glory.
As we enter 2022, I encourage you to love the local church that Jesus has placed you in, and to love the fellow believers in your life as Jesus loves you.
Love each other, even when it feels hard, difficult and challenging. May we all be better church members in 2022. May we be thankful to God for giving us a new love whereby through its implementation we become more like him, as do those who are loved by us.
Soli Deo gloria!
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