Love People

Love People
Understanding the command to love God naturally flows into a necessity to love those made in His image (1 John 4:7-12).  It is the clear testimony of Scripture that comprehending the gospel motivates the believer to love people (1 John 3:16-18).  It is love for others that defies our natural sinful tendency to love self above all else.  The sacrifice of Christ displays the self-sacrificing love that the followers of Christ must imitate.  Commandments five through ten are summed up in Jesus’ words to, “love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39).”  The church must understand the call to love people as a reflection of the love of God heralded in the gospel.  This call for the believer’s life is clear in two ways.  

Love the Church
Possibly one of my favorite commands (and also blessings) for the Church is given by Jesus in John 13:34-35.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  This command is specifically about believer’s love for one another and we have the great gift of Jesus establishing gospel community with His Church to live out this call to love another.  The world should see the relationships believers have with one another within the local church and see distinct love that is grounded in gospel truth.  I just want to look at two ways we get to live out this love that we far too often underappreciate within the local church.  

First, our call to be known for our love for one another is a call to service.  This may not feel like a neglected area of the local church but when I think of how often I approach the church with even a subtle, “I am here to be served” mindset, it is staggering.  If we are not continually reflecting on our command to serve, our default is self-service (Gal.5:13).  We cannot forget that our service to the local body starts with a proper understanding of serving Christ our King, and the example of serving He has given us in Himself (Matt. 20:28; Luke 22:27; John 12:26).  Our love is expressed and lived by coming into this Christ-established community asking, “how can I serve,” not, “how can I be served?”  This question is what it looks like to faithfully manage what God has entrusted to those who He has called to Himself.  Just listen to this stewardship in 1 Peter 4:10-11. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  

Second, our call to be known for our love for one another is a call to accountability.  It is difficult to read through any of Paul’s letters to churches and miss this call to accountability.  Paul only gets through his initial greeting before these words to the Galatian church: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.”  We need not see harshness in Paul’s words here, but love.  This is not an invitation to be self-righteous in your confronting of sin in the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  But it is a call to love them seriously enough to come alongside with humble correction of sin.  Perhaps the most direct example of this is in 1 Corinthians 5, when Paul writes with specific instruction about sin existing in this local church body.  He writes, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.”  The believer’s call to love the church is a call to service and accountability.  It is a call to uphold the humility and purity of the church because of  the glory of our Head, Jesus.

Love the Lost
While loving the church and loving the lost are described differently in Scripture, they are both vital for the believer to understand and live.  The call to love the lost is not a call to judgment (1 Cor. 5:12).  Instead, our love for unrepentant sinners must look like God’s love for us while we were still indulging the desires of the flesh (Romans 5:8).  It is love that has the gospel at the center in multiple ways.  First, the love expressed in God sending His Son to be a propitiatory sacrifice for sin is the believer’s motivation for love for the unbeliever defined by unrelenting grace.  We extend unmerited grace as those who are recipients of such unmerited grace.  Second, our love is a witness to the reality of the gospel.  This means our repeated act of love for the lost is words and deeds of life in the gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-23).  

There is a difficult call from Jesus to love the lost that leaves little room for our own interpretation.  During His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus says in verses 43-46, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”  Beloved, our love for our enemies is a witness to the gospel to them.  Our love must be a compelling evidence of the validity of the gospel we believe.  We love believer and unbeliever alike because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  This is not optional for us.  It is a command for all those who have been redeemed from the condemnation sin brings (1 John 3:23).  Love the church.  Love the lost.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemies.  Church, love people.