The most abused word in the dictionary is the word “love.” Many commit all kinds of wickedness in the name of “love.” They hide their true feelings and intents behind this word. But what is love? Love is not just a feeling of goodwill or deep affection. Rather, it is a decision we make to give ourselves to others and to do good to them. This is the kind of love that God wants from us. The reason why we could love this way is because he has given us a pattern or a model. The apostle John said, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The kind of love that God has for us is what we call “agape love,” or sacrificial love. It is different from the kind of love that the world has, which is sensual or selfish.
We love because we have committed ourselves to love sacrificially—we do not only love those who are lovable, but even the unlovable. Again, God set a pattern for us to follow when the apostle Paul said, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Looking back at our own selves, we were not deserving of God’s love because of our sins. Hopeless as we were, God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins. This is the epitome of God’s love and Jesus’ own response is the embodiment of everything we know as God’s love. In describing his response, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It was an unselfish love that God demonstrated in saving us from our sins.
While many believers confess their love for God, this has to be tested. The apostle John said, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). There is no better way to prove that we love God than to demonstrate it to our brothers. Words are cheap and we can say anything we want, but whether we are sincere or not is seen in the manner we live our lives. If we hate our brothers, we do not actually love God, because they, too, are loved by God. Our relationship with one another is the best test of our love of God. Since love is sacrificial, we should be willing to deal with our brothers, even if it is inconvenient for us. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of loving our neighbours. While the Samaritan was not related to the man who was a victim of robbery, he did not hesitate to extend a helping hand. He did not only bandage the victim’s wounds, but also took him to an inn to personally take care of him for a while. Since he also had to go about his own business, he did not leave the victim alone, but entrusted him to the innkeeper, whom he paid to take care of him. The Samaritan went beyond what was expected of him because he cared about the welfare of his neighbour. This is the kind of sacrificial love that God wants from us.
Loving our brothers is not an option, but a command. The apostle John, in exhorting believers to love, said further, “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21). Not only are we commanded to love our brothers in general sense, but even husbands are specifically commanded to love their wives. The apostle Paul said in his epistle to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). The love between husband and wife should be sacrificial and eternal. This love is meant to last, just as they committed when they made their marriage vows: “Till death do us part.” Apart from the agape love that is required of us, any other love is selfish and sensual. These are temporal and will not last long. Husbands and wives that are joined by this sensual love will not stay. When one of the parties could no longer satisfy the needs of the other, they break up. This is wicked and contrary to God’s design for marriage. The Lord Jesus himself emphasized, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6).
Even in love, the principle of sowing and reaping is very much applicable. Unless we love our brothers, we will not be loved by either them or God. God will never love a liar—one who says “I love God,” yet hates his brother. Friends, let us love one another not only with our words, but with our actions. Our love should be modeled after God’s own love for us—it is sacrificial and from our hearts. Let us model this love to our own children, so that when they grow old, they, too, will love the way God wants them to love. Nobody will benefit from it but ourselves, for they will love us even when we are old. Glory to God!