In the New Testament, God tells us how to care for others in the church body. Frequently we find those instructions in conjunction with the word “brothers” — as in, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). And “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7).
Often the care for our siblings in Christ are also given in conjunction with “one another” imperatives; 58 times the New Testament writers compel our mutual care for one another by exhorting us to act in particular ways for one another. The most oft-repeated of those commands is “love one another.” Sixteen times the writers exhort us with that simple command (Jn. 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Pt. 1:22; 4:8; 1 Jn. 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; 2 Jn. 5).
Why do the writers repeat the command so often? In part, because it is inherent in the Law — the Law is summarized in the commands to love God and love one another (Mk. 12:28-31). And the command is repeated so often because it is unnatural to love others. The heart is inclined to the love of self (e.g., Eph. 5:29). The very fact that he has been repeatedly saying, “love one another,” indicates that it is hard and that believers do need to be reminded to love one another.
Perhaps the most significant reason to love one another, though, is because it is the overflow and evidence that we have been loved by God (in salvation) and that we love Him. John says it this way: “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11).
John is particular in making God’s love for believers our standard for loving others. We are motivated to pouring ourselves out in serving others because that is what God has done and is always doing for us. Note this especially:
- God did not love us for our merit, but because of our need.
- God does not love us for our inherent value or our ability to love Him.
- God loves us because it is His nature to love and He loves us because the magnitude and extent of His grace is demonstrated by His love for us.
Those principles are to become our motives in loving each other. We don’t love others because they deserve our love, but because God has put them in our lives and they need us. We don’t love because of anyone’s inherent value or because we are particularly gracious people. We love because we have been commanded to love and as the overflow of the love we have received from God.
God does not love us because of benefit He receives from us; He loves us so that we might benefit from Him. Christ touched and healed and loved lepers; He forgave prostitutes and He had dinners with tax collectors (one of whom was even one of His trusted disciples!). That is the manner of God’s love to us.
Just as Gomer was an adulterous wife to Hosea, so we are adulterous sinners to God. And He loved and loves us anyway. We are the sinning enemies, lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors who are loved by God and lavished with grace.
Now here’s the point John is making: since that is the kind of love God has given to us, then we should be willing to share that same kind of love for others. Specifically, since God has loved me in this way and He has also loved you in that way, then how can I not also love you and how can you not love me?
Why do we love each other? Not because we are good looking or desirable or worthy or because we can benefit from loving each other. We are motivated to love because we have received such a magnanimous gift of love from God the Father, through Christ.
Let us love one another because we have been loved by God and enabled to love others.