How to Love One Another
You might be looking at this title with a bit of confusion, perhaps even amusement. “What does he mean, ‘How to Love One Another’? I already know how do to that.” Or better yet, “I know that guy, and he claims to know once-and-for-all how to love? He didn’t even take Marriage and Family with Dr. Dickey while we were in college!” Or perhaps the logical argument: “Love is a topic that scores of men and women far more experienced and educated than himself have sought to explain, with varying levels of success. It is simply presumptuous to claim to know ‘How to Love’.” And lastly, the emotional argument: “Love is a complex emotion, which exists outside of logical reasoning and therefore cannot be explained.”
While I freely admit that my experience at Florida College is indeed incomplete without Dr. Dickey’s famous class, the first letter to Timothy tells us that via the scriptures, God has provided us all that is necessary to “…be complete, equipped for every good work.” (1 Tim. 3:17b) That would certainly imply that the scriptures are the complete and final authority on how to be pleasing to God while here on this Earth. We also know from the scriptures that the two greatest commands, from the mouth of God Himself, are (in order) to Love God with all of our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). If one takes both of these together, then we have to admit that God wants us to love, and has also shown us how to do so through His word!
A disclaimer before we begin: One could argue that the story of the Bible as a whole is a story about God loving man, and seeking to repair the relationship broken at Eden via the death and resurrection of Jesus. I would not disagree. However, there are key passages in scripture that provide us a condensed version of how to love our fellow man. One of the best descriptions on how to do so is found in Luke 6:27-31.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies,” (Luke 6:27a)
“Hey wait a second,” you might think. “I thought we were talking about how to love one another? How is this going to help us with loving our spouses, our children, our (friendly) neighbors, our brethren within the church? It’s not like I am cruel or insensitive to my enemies! I don’t mistreat those people who I simply do not care for!”
The point is this: the same approach that is used to love our enemies is used to love our spouses, our children, our neighbors, our relatives, and our brethren! If one truly practices loving their enemies, then they are adequately equipped to love everyone else within their lives. Our love for our fellow man is called to be exemplary, going far and beyond what everyone else already practices. Jesus makes this point three times in v. 32-34 of the same chapter, each time asking “what benefit is that to you?” Our common problem is not that we treat our enemies so much worse than everyone else in our lives. The problem is that we do not love all people, including our enemies, as Jesus describes here!
So how are we supposed to love each other? What does true love look like? Jesus explains it clearly in the verses that follow:
“do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who begs from you, and from the one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.” (Luke 6:28b-30)
So how do you love someone?
- Do good to them.
What is good? It is of God. (Mk. 10:18) It is the opposite of evil. “let him turn away from evil, and do good;” (1 Pet. 3:11a) If you truly love someone, then you cannot do anything that is evil or unrighteous in association to them, with them, or with their permission! Not to say that we are not to love the unrighteous, for God himself loved us while we were yet unrighteous (John 3:16). That said, God’s love for us does not permit Him to do that which is unrighteous! Do you claim to love someone? What do you do good for them? This alone serves as a tremendously effective rubric for whether or not we love someone according to the Biblical model.
How do you bless someone? Bless, in this context, takes on the same meaning as our word eulogy. A Eulogy is a short speech given about a deceased person that speaks well of them. If we truly love someone, we would speak well of them and to them! Check out the praise given to the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. Read all of the Song of Solomon. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9)
3.Pray for them.
Do you love someone? When was the last time you prayed for them? So many times, we pray for ourselves, or we pray for groups of people in general (the country, the church, etc.), and this is certainly profitable and good to do. In this context, Jesus tells his listeners to pray for those who abuse them! We are to pray for those that we love! Parents are acutely aware of the need to pray for their children or the children of others in times of trial. May we be a people that pray for those that we love at all times!
4.Give freely to them.
Here’s the one we don’t like to hear. We are very willing to give many things to those that we love. In the case of our families and close friends, we give of our financial means, our time, etc. We are also very familiar with the concept of giving gifts to those that we become closely associated with. However, in this passage Jesus would have us give to those who have taken advantage of us! We can argue and debate our way around this, but the passage clearly says to give to all who ask of us. If this point wasn’t clear enough, Jesus reiterates the point in v.35 of the same chapter: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Why are we to give freely even to our enemies? Because God does it on a daily basis.
5.Do not keep record.
We as Americans love a good deal. The current Republican presidential candidate is a man that is famous for making profitable deals. The most basic concept of a deal is that of a transaction, an exchange of goods or services. Love is not a deal. Love does not expect anything back. In economic terms, love is always a losing proposition! Imagine if God wanted something in return for what He has done for us. What can we give in exchange for our life, for this planet, for conscious thought! What happens, though, is that our concept of love devolves into the concept of a transaction, where we expect something in return for our love. Perhaps we begin to expect obedience in exchange for love. Perhaps we expect a better economic future for ourselves in exchange for our love. (How many people abandon what they call “love” once the money is gone?) We expect something in exchange, when in reality love is about freely giving. Love is about giving up your cloak in addition to your tunic.
Lastly, a confession. I readily admit to my family, my friends, and everyone that knows me that I have not yet lived up to the Bible’s standard of love. No man or woman can claim to have done so, aside from Jesus Christ. Jesus was the only man on this earth that loved as God loves. But I do know what we can do. If we forsake all, and follow Jesus, then we can start learning to love as He did. 7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…) 10Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-8, 10)