On Sunday we considered what Jesus called the “second” great commandment. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus says to “…love your neighbor as yourself.” This golden rule of ethical, moral behavior is repeated many times in Scripture. It was our purpose this week to learn exactly what Jesus meant and to ask for grace to live in obedience to such an important command.
Agape is the most common Greek word translated “love” in the New Testament. This is the kind of love we have received from God. It is His good will or benevolence toward us. Agape is a love that cherishes and always acts in the best interest of the one who is loved. It perseveres, even when love is not reciprocated. Agape love is divine love.
This is the standard of love which each Christian is held to. We are commanded to love others in the way Christ has loved us. As described in 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter, demonstrating agape means loving others with a merciful, self-sacrificing, pure, and patient devotion to what is best for them, rather than for ourselves!
Who are we to love in this way? The Bible says…
1. Love your Enemies – Matt 5:44
2. Love your Neighbor – Matt 22:39
3. Love One Another – John 13:34
4. Love your Family – Eph 5:25
We would all agree that it’s easier to love some people than it is to love some others. Enemies, antagonists, those who are not like us, those who ignore us, or lie to us, or reject us, etc. Loving some people can be frustrating at best and emotionally exhausting at worst! What steps can we take to live in obedience to Jesus’ clear instructions anyway?
First, consider the ways in which Jesus has and continues to love you. He is endlessly faithful in His agape love for us, though we sometimes fail to love Him back. Sadly, we often treat Jesus in the same ways we are treated by those we’re trying to love. Let the example and encouragement of Christ be the model for how you love others.
Second, surrender the control center of your life to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit abides within us to form the likeness of Christ in our life (Galatians 4:19). The fruit which He produces is that very likeness or reflection of Jesus in us. Galatians 5:22-23 lists nine characteristics of Jesus which the Holy Spirit promises to impart to us. The first virtue of the nine is love. Simply put, Jesus loves the people that I struggle to love so I need to allow Him to love them through me. It’s His love, His power, and His grace being extended to them, not mine. We are just the vessel He uses.
Last, begin praying for the people you struggle to love. Prayer moves the heart of God, but it also moves our hearts! Matthew 5:44 commands this prayer and, in my experience, it’s hard to pray for someone without having my heart softened toward them at the same time.
Loving others with a merciful, self-sacrificing, pure and patient devotion to what is best for them can be difficult. However, as we allow the grace of Jesus to flow through us, God can do the difficult things, even the impossible things, that we are helpless to do in our own strength.