“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Before Jesus left this earth, He gave us a “new” commandment, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with. You might say, “Yep, we’re supposed to love one another.” Hmm… that’s not quite correct. “Love one another” is only the first part of it.
“What’s the second part?” you might ask. Well, it’s to love others JUST as Jesus loves us. (See John 13:34 and John 15:12.)Yes, in the same degree, as much as, Jesus loves us. Okay, so that is sounding a little difficult. But how much does Jesus really love us?
How much does Jesus love us?
“I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love”(John 15:9).
Jesus is saying in these passages that He loves us just as much as God loves Him! That’s pretty incredible. So, do you actually love others as much as God loves Jesus? If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing you don’t! Maybe this is an impossible mission if God wants us to love each other just as Jesus loves us.
Here’s where the “solutions” come in.
- Just ignore God’s command; instead, cut off or ignore the unlovable people from your life.
After all, they are unlovable! “God couldn’t have really meant THAT person! He just doesn’t understand what it’s like to have someone drive you crazy and hate you!”
Really? It seems to me that Jesus knew very well what it was like to have people hate him, trap him, and even try to kill him (and “succeed” at that)! At one time, you and I were just as unlovable (and even more so) as the person who drives you crazy right now. Remember that we were God’s enemies? Jesus knows how to deal with enemies.
2. Just try to be nice to them; don’t say or do anything nasty or mean.
If we’ve rejected the world’s first “solution” to cut them off, maybe we’ve bought into their other option: trying harder to show love to others. You know… just bite your lip when you feel like saying something nasty; leave the room when you feel like giving someone what they “deserve,” etc.
While this sounds better than just ignoring God’s command and giving others what they deserve, it is actually still wrong! God says in Romans 12:9a, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them” (NLT). People can usually tell when it’s just a fake, outward show of love. They know when you’re pretending to be nice, but inside you still can’t stand them. This isn’t how Jesus loves us, and it’s not how we should love others.
God has a better plan, so STOP using the world’s “solutions!”
“Okay, but what am I supposed to do? Because I still really don’t love this person, even though I know I’m supposed to!”
Glad you asked! Love is an important thing. Real love shows the world that you’re a disciple of Jesus; it shows that you are learning from Him and growing! “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Read our verse again. Hint: it actually tells you WHAT the problem is: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
If you don’t love, it’s because you don’t know God!
“WHAT?!?!?” you might say. “I know God,” and then proceed to rattle off a bunch of facts about Him and what He’s done. “I was hoping for something a little more profound and helpful.”
I need to explain something here … the verse said that you (and I) don’t know God. The Greek word for know is ginosko, which means a very deep knowing. It’s not a casual acquaintance with God but a very close, intimate knowing. It’s not a “knowing about,” but a personal, close kind of knowing that comes from experience, from spending time with someone.
Who you spend time with changes you!
Parents are usually great at letting us know that who we spend time with is important. “I don’t like you hanging out with so-and-so. They’re very _____!” And have you ever started picking up some of those crazy sayings and expressions that your friends have? Yep, me too! You don’t even think about purposefully saying them. It just sort of happens as you spend time with them.
Hmm… I wonder what would happen if we spent more time with Jesus? Do you think we would start behaving more like Him? Do you think His love would just flow out of our lives? “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).
This might sound like we’re just acting like Jesus and are not really any different on the inside, but this is not true. If you are truly a child of God, the old “you” – the one who is always doing unloving things and who can never love others – is already dealt with! The old “you” died with Christ on the cross! “…Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor 5:14 NLT).
As you “hang out” with Jesus, your life will start looking more and more like Jesus. Spending time with Jesus is “renewing our minds.” It’s not going to happen overnight, but the Holy Spirit will guide you through that process. It’s what changes us to stop acting like the sinners we were and start letting Christ be the one living in us. Ok, so if Jesus is the one living our lives, He’s going to love others through us with His love! Then we’ll be loving others just as much as Jesus loves us! Maybe it’s not an impossible mission!
The secret: Christ in you, and you in Christ. Start getting into the Word and learning even deeper about God and His love for you! As it says later in this chapter (vs. 19), we love because He first loved us!
“And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people…” (I Thess 3:12).