Do you know what it means to demonstrate real love?
The command that we love one another is nothing new to those who read the Bible on a regular basis. Typing the word "love" into the search box at Bible Gateway brings back 329 results in the New King James Version. We are told to love God, to love His commands, to love one another. In John 15:12, Jesus says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” In John 13:35, He stated, "”By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What do we think of when we think of love? For many of us, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is falling in love: a special person that we come to adore. For most of us, thinking about love prompts us to think about a feeling, a tenderness of heart, a smile when we think of that person. We desire that person’s well-being. We want them to succeed. We want good things to come their way. But is there more to it?
I think there is. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The indication here is that there is far more involved than simply feeling loving: that love should motivate us to do something, to keep His commandments. There is action involved. It is no surprise, then, that throughout the New Testament the concept of concern and love for our brethren is closely linked to service, to doing something about their needs. Christ, after all, loved us in far more than just feeling: He gave His life for us. He said, in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
In Romans 12:9, Paul writes, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” In Hebrews 10:24, Paul instructs us to “...consider one another in order to stir up love and good works...”
In 1 John 3:16, these ideas are solidified. John writes, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Likewise, James--linking faith and works--wrote in James 2:15, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them,“Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”
Loving others – especially the household of faith (Galatians 6:10), but by extension all mankind – is a matter of deeds, then, and not just feelings or words. We are called to follow Christ’s example, not by necessarily dying for someone else, but by daily choosing to lay down a part of our lives for someone else. When we love in deed, it means that we choose to give up something we would rather be doing at the moment to come to the aid of someone else. We give up looking after our own needs in order to espy the needs of others. We give of our energy, time, money, and goods in order to ease the burden of another person. And if we are following Christ’s example, that other person is likely to be someone who doesn't look as though they “deserve” our sacrifice. After all, Christ died for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). None of us deserve His sacrifice. In like manner, we must be careful to serve all in love, not just the people we like. James 2:9 tells us that showing partiality is sin.
When we love our fellow man, we demonstrate to God not just our understanding of His word but our understanding of how He thinks. We demonstrate, too, a desire to please Him above pleasing ourselves, and we gain His approval by our conduct. In Hebrews 13:16 Paul writes that we ought not “...forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” In 1 John 3:14 we read, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.”
Let us continue to grow in love towards our brethren and towards all mankind. In doing so, let us remember not to simply rely on feeling loving, but also on performing acts of love, that our faith may be demonstrated not so much in our profession as in our action. Let us remember to lay down our lives daily for the sake of our brethren in the same way that our Lord and Savior laid down His life for us before we knew Him or could love Him. Let us make our love more than a feeling, but rather the hard evidence of what we believe.
For more information on the Sabbath, read the Bible study guide: You Can Have Living Faith .