Read: I John 3
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (I John 3:16)
Jesus summed up God’s requirements of us in two straightforward commands: The first requirement is that I am to love God with my entire being—my spirit, of course, but also my intellect, my emotions, and my body. The second requirement is that I am to love my fellow man just as I would love myself.
Now it’s not the first command that we struggle with—at least not in principle. It is quite obvious that we are to love God. It’s the second that we have difficulty living out. Love for God is one thing, but loving other people is what gives us fits.
But Jesus was clear, and so was John in his first epistle, that we cannot truly love God without truly loving people who were made in God’s image. Likewise, when we are loving people authentically from the heart, then we are making our love for God truly practical.
That is our call as Christ-followers: To love God by loving people!
So then, how do we define the kind of love for people that demonstrates our love for God? John made it as plain as day: To lay down our lives for people just as Jesus laid down his life for us.
Now that’s sounds really spiritual, but how do we make that kind of love practical since it is not likely that we will ever be called upon to literally lay down our lives and die for another? John shows us how in verses 17-18:
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has not pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”
True love for God that is demonstrated in authentic love for people is first of all, selfless and sensitive. It knows that what I have is not for my own gratification, but for the benefit of others. It knows that not only in principle, but it discerns ways to practice that kind of selfless love in real, everyday life situations.
Second of all, it is a selfless and sensitive love that is motivated by compassion, not just duty. It sees the need in another and is moved by both the love of God as well as our love for God to do something about that need.
And thirdly, in a way that reiterates the first two points: It is, on the one hand, not just a knowing love, but it is a doing love. And on the other hand, it is not just a doing love, but a knowing love. In other words, this laying-down-your-life kind of love is based on the character of God revealed theologically in his Word and practically through sacrificial, compassionate and gracious action in our everyday world.
How do we know that we are truly the children of God? When we love others in this manner.
Father, I have declared my love for you countless times, but perhaps I have not equally demonstrated the authenticity of that love by sensitively, compassionately and selflessly loving those around me in real ways. Forgive my neglect, and help me today to allow the kind of love you have for me to be demonstrated toward others. May I be real life proof of your love throughout this day.