Unlike other world religions, the Christian faith centers in God’s love for us and His admonition that we love one another. Love, love, love!ÊThat was a basic emphasis in the New Testament Church. Is this the same emphasis today?
Listen to Jesus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In this familiar scripture verse it is clearly taught that those whom God created, and who walked away from Him, He now seeks to redeem through the giving of His Son.
Again, stressing the importance of love, Jesus taught, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.ÊLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love
your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these”Ê
Jesus continues to speak on the subject of love and says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). In many of His parables, Jesus presents God’s love for us. One of the most familiar is the story of the Prodigal Son. The parable of the Good
Samaritan is Jesus’ classic in telling us how to love one another.
This same “love message” was taught by the disciples. St. Paul’s writing on the subject in I Corinthians 13 leaves no question in the mind of the reader what love is. It is impossible to define love, but Paul describes it in this portion of scripture in a way that we can apply to the details of our everyday lives.
Both James and Peter tell us that love has to be genuine. It must beÊfree from all superficiality.Ê
John strikes the same note when he writes, “Let us not love with words or tongue, but action” (I John 3:18). Then John tells his readers who enables us to love. “We love because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). We must first experience God’s love before we can begin to love Him and other people.
The Bible clearly tells us that Christian people and the Church are to be known as a loving crowd, ready to reach out to others in the name of Christ.
Well, the big question is, Did the New Testament Church practice this love? It is one thing to be taught what to do, but quite another thing to put the teaching into practice. There are many examples of how the early Christians loved one another. In II Corinthians 8,Êwe learn that there was a famine in Jerusalem and many were dying. When the Macedonian Christians heard about this famine, they gave beyond what they were able to give that their brothers and sisters in
Christ would have something to eat. When Stephen was being stoned to death, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Stephen was putting into action what he had been taught, Love your enemies.Ê
In Acts 6:23, we learn that the apostles chose seven deacons to careÊfor the poor. They realized their job was to proclaim the Gospel,Ê
but while doing that, someone had to reach out to those people who were hurting from a lack of life’s necessities.
The New Testament Church was not perfect, but the Holy Spirit was at work in them that they might love one another. Do we see the Holy
Spirit at work in today’s Church? The answer is, Yes. Neither are we the perfect Church, but the love shown for one another is a strong sign that
God, who has begun the good work in us, is not done with His children.
So that we might be encouraged with the Spirit’s work in our midst,Êlook at what Christ has done through His Church in building hospitals,Êhomes for the aged, and orphanages when that was the appropriateÊway to care for children left without parents. The social serviceÊorganizations within the Church have reached out in love to those in prison,Êas well at to those who are living in society with huge problems. There are the victims of abuse, the unmarried mothers, and the handicapped,Êonly to mention a few who have experienced the loving care of God
through His Church.
If you walk into our church building on a weekday, you will see many little children receiving loving care. They have been left there by parents who both work. The first thought for many of us was not to become involved in this kind of activity, but then some in our congregation felt that we did have a responsibility for these children. If parents had to work,Êwas it not an opportunity for God’s people to care for these little onesÊin a Christian environment while they were away from their dads andÊmoms? This is love in action.
The Church has not arrived. We could list many examples of situations where we have not been as faithful as we should have been, but we thank
God for leading us as far as we have come in showing our love for God by loving people.Ê
One of these areas that is most difficult is to follow Christ’s command to love those who have hurt us. How many people live for years with
hatred towards another person who might have hurt them. Such feelings are often found in families where there have been battles over money.ÊThe will was read after mother and father died, and one son orÊdaughter received more than another.Ê
Anger developed into hatred, and years have gone by without their speaking to each other. Cousins have been raised as strangers. ItÊ
just seems impossible to take that first step in restoring the relationship,Êno matter how displeasing it is to God. What a poor witness it is to unbelievers who are wondering what this Christianity is all about,Êwhen followers of Jesus Christ carry hatred towards other people.
We also err in being insensitive to the hurts of others. We have our own agendas and they take precedence over others. “What shall I do this afternoon?” Mary asks herself. “I think it would be fun to call Sally and see if we shouldn’t have lunch together and do a little shopping.”ÊThere is nothing wrong with that kind of thinking. Mary deserves anÊafternoon to enjoy her friend’s company over a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and a glass of iced tea. In fact, they might ignore their diets and indulge in a piece of pie. The only problem is, there is that neighbor who is terminally ill and has asked Mary to stop by for a visit.ÊHow long the hours are when you sit alone at home realizing that, if medical science is correct, it will only be a short time and you will die. Where will love move Mary in her final decision?
Jesus was very sensitive to the needs of others. Remember how HeÊrebuked the disciples for sending the mothers away when they came
to have the Lord bless their children? When he saw what they were doing, Jesus said, “Permit these little children to come to me, for to
such belongs the Kingdom of God.” Then He took them up in His arms, and blessed them. I think He probably rebuked the disciples severely
when they were alone. “How insensitive can you be?” he could have asked them. “Those children are the mothers’ dearest possessions.Ê
They wanted me to bless them, and you were willing to send them away, never giving a thought to their feelings. You didn’t want to
be bothered by those kids and their mothers. Don’t you knowÊwhat that could have done to those women? Be more loving!”
Yes, there are many positive signs showing us that God is workingÊin us to be more loving, but there are also some ugly situations that need to be corrected by reaching out to others in love. God grant that we might be so immersed in Christ’s love for us that it will become natural for us to love others.