The Command to Love Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
Text: “This I command you, to love one another.” (John 15:17 RSV)
Bible Reading: John 15:12-17
Among the great abilities that characterized the life of Jesus was His everlasting determination to practice genuine love toward those who crossed His pathway. If we want to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we too must see life as an opportunity to love, and we must see people as those to whom we have the opportunity of demonstrating genuine Christian love. The message today is about love. It’s the strongest emotion that a person can feel, and the New Testament contains many admonitions to love God and others. It’s what John wrote about in Chapter 15 of his gospel. There it says--
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
17 This I command you, to love one another.
There are three parts to the message:
1. We are commanded to love.
2. The Greeks used different words to describe different kinds of love.
3. Jesus said, “Love one another, even as I have loved you.”
I want to begin by saying “We are commanded to love.” John, the apostle who called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” wrote this about God’s love for us:
8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation or payment for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:8-11)
The first verse presents us with one of God’s greatest attributes: He is love. But, love is not a definition of God—God is infinitely more—but God is the definition of love. Without Him, love does not exist. God’s love is self-starting, indestructible, undeserved, compassionate, constant, immeasurable, voluntary, and a gift. He did not begin loving at the Cross, nor will He love us more tomorrow than He does today. There is nothing we can do, think, or say that will change His love because there are no surprises for God—He knows us totally and loves us anyway.
The goal of God’s love is to have us with Him throughout eternity. He made this goal possible through Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross. There are five things about God’s command to love that I want to show you.
THE FIRST IS, WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE GOD COMPLETELY. We are to put God first at all times. Matthew puts it this way, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37) Love is evidence of salvation. If you are born again through faith in Jesus Christ, you have His nature within you. Since “God is love,” His children who have His nature should also make His love known to others. The children should be like their Father!
Another thing about God’s command to love is that WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES (MATT 22:39). Most of us have a problem about this point because we don’t love ourselves the way we should. Therefore, we do not have a proper measure by which to know how to truly love our neighbor. Our love for others makes God’s love real and visible to them, so we can better witness to them about Christ. It also makes God real and personal to us. Merely reading in the Bible about God’s love is not enough. We need to experience that love in our heart by sharing it with others. This is what Jesus had to say about it; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
There is another command and perhaps it is the hardest to accept; WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES. Most of us have difficulty at this point because we think of love as an emotion, a sentimental attachment, or a romantic attachment. In one of His sermons, Jesus had this to say about loving your enemies.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:43-45).
This is part of the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus said this the popular attitude was, “hate thine enemy.” The command to love your enemies is one of the greatest statements Jesus ever made, and it shocked the disciples. The kind of love required in this passage is love which can only originate from God Himself! We are not commanded to attempt to love our enemies on the basis of simple human affection but rather on the basis of a love which comes from God. This kind of love is unique since it is a gift from God and the fruit of the Spirit for believers only. It is not something that someone can muster within himself. Rather, it must come from God Himself into the life of the believer.
So how does anyone love an enemy? Notice that the passage makes it clear that he does not have to attempt to work up an artificial feeling of love. The type of love commanded here is expressed by giving. We are told to bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you. Loving an enemy involves doing good toward that enemy in order to win him over to the cause that you represent. The message of Jesus is that we will win over those who oppose us more easily with love than with hatred. It is not by argument and anger that we win souls for Christ, but by giving out the gospel and the love of Christ.
There is a fourth command and that is, WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Jesus said, “This I command you, to love one another” (John 15:17). Loving one another is a command, not an option. It’s how believers show they are different from non-believers. The principle stated here is that every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. The negative principle is, “He that loves not doesn’t know God.”
The proof of God’s love for us was clearly seen when He sent His only Son into the world to die on the Cross as our Savior. God’s love for us makes us obligated to love one another, because this is the only way we can show that we really have love. Claiming to love God is meaningless without showing love to each other.
One final command is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He said, “HUSBANDS ARE TO LOVE THEIR WIVES AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH” (EPH. 5:25, 33). This presents problems, because the only kind of love that some people know anything about is romantic love. It says in Ephesians 5:
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph. 5:25, 33).
Husbands are to love their wives in the same way in which Christ sacrificially loved the church. Husbands must not be “bitter” or harsh with their wives. Paul explained that the husband should love his wife like he does his own body, because the two are actually one. Here God says that marriage provides a picture of the ultimate and eternal love between Christ and His church. Christ loved us and died for us, but today He loves us and cares for us.
The subject of the second part of the message is, “The Greeks used different words to describe different kinds of love”.
We overuse and misuse the word love. The Greek language had four words for love, and therefore, it was much clearer in helping people understand the different forms and expressions of love.
THE FIRST WORD WAS STORGE. Storge refers to natural family love, the love of parents for children and children for parents, and the love of grandparents for grandchildren. It is even used for the love of an animal for her young. Storge also expresses the loving affection between a husband and wife. This type of love forms a strong bond between family members, and it can be seen in the kindness and gentleness that passes between them.
THE NEXT WORD FOR LOVE IS EROS. Eros is sensual love, “need” love or “me” love. Love on this level is often selfish, instead of self-giving. Love on this level seeks gratification and pleasure. This type of love is becoming the norm today. Today, young people are engaged in sexual activities at an early age. Adults today are having affairs more frequently and marriages are being replaced by men and women living together. That is Eros love.
THE THIRD GREEK WORD FOR LOVE IS PHILIA. Philia is “friendship” love or “respect” love. It expresses itself in generosity and friendship. It is love without any romantic content. Often it is love based on the worth of the one being loved. This type of love can be expressed as wholesome, natural affection among friends, and sometimes it leads to warm Christian fellowship or brotherly love.