It’s not always easy to love others, yet we are commanded to do so. Thankfully, God’s great love in us empowers us to do what is impossible – to love as Jesus did, giving His all to the frail, the weak, and those hard to love.
Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. (Isaiah 35:3)
The very heart of Christ’s ministry was servanthood, and we see His gracious spirit of compassion evident in all He did. The Gospels are full of detailed accounts, providing vibrant examples of what it is to love others. Yet many believers seem to have a policy of self-sufficiency. There is a tendency to view the unsaved as ‘undeserving’ and the saved as able to take care of themselves. It’s an attitude that rubs off from the self-focused and increasingly isolated lives that are the product of the world. There are so many poor, crippled, desperate, and needy people out there that we shut ourselves off out self-preservation. We have enough problems of our own. If we can manage, so can they. These are thoughts we all encounter, if we’re honest. But while we must exercise discernment in our ‘good works,’ Jesus taught us that these are expected of us.
To love others is commanded.
This is one of those no-grey areas. Matthew 22:39 tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. It’s not a suggestion or a preference. It’s a commandment, second only to loving God with all we are and have. Jesus doesn’t say ‘like’ your neighbour. Whether we like them – or even whether they’re likeable – is irrelevant. We are commanded to love them to the extent to which we love ourselves. The word neighbour also isn’t limited to the people next door, our family, or our friends or work colleagues. It essentially means ‘the one next to’ us, so it includes anyone and everyone we may come into contact with. To love others means to have no exceptions. Our love for others is a manifestation of God’s love. That extended to the whole world, not some He ‘liked’ or who would choose Him.
These two ‘greatest’ commandments are inseparably linked. We cannot claim to love God and not love others. 1 John 4:20 effectively silences any argument to the contrary. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And before we get hung up on the possible distinctions between ‘neighbour’ and ‘brother,’ Matthew 25:40 puts it very clearly. And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ We must remember that Jesus identified totally and completely with every single person in the entire history of mankind – past and future – on the cross. To love others is to love all others.
To love others is to reveal God’s love.
It is both an awesome privilege and a sobering responsibility to love others. Many who refuse salvation or who have left the church justify their choice on the hypocrisy of Christians. While the Bible teaches us never to compromise on the truth of God’s Word, we are taught to ‘hate the sin and love the sinner’ at all times. The apostles, in the book of Acts, set a clear of example of what the body of Christ should be – a place where needs are met, both spiritual and otherwise. Sadly, when the unsaved look and see how the church treats her own, there is little impetus to seek salvation. There is little evidence of the unreserved and merciful love of God or the grace He gave so freely. We are quick to quote ‘God so loved the world’ but very slow to reveal it in real terms.
Throughout Paul’s epistles, he encourages unity and love within the body – practical and visible love made manifest in action rather than words or platitudes. The reality is that no amount of outreach to the unsaved will prosper if we do not set a loving example in our churches. Who wants to join a family where no one actually cares about another? We must understand that loving others without reservation is a rare quality and seldom evidenced in the world. It is this love – the love of God in us – that is a true testimony to the supernatural power and glory of God. We cannot preach the love of God and not manifest it. That makes liars of both us and God, whose name we bear. Jesus reached out to the prostitute, the leper, the tax collector, and the various outcasts of society. How can we do less?
To love others is to make disciples.
What we easily forget is that we are all sinners, saved by the grace of God. Salvation doesn’t make us special. It sets us apart, yes, but that is for servanthood in following Christ’s example. We aren’t set apart because we’re better than anyone else but because we, having experienced the love, grace, and mercy of God, are His chosen vessels to share it with others. Loving others starts in the church and with making disciples. That’s another command which has never been revoked. There are those in the body who desperately need strong, mature believers to step up and disciple them. Rather than judge them for their weakness and struggles, we should love them into maturity. This is what it means to strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. It is to reach out in love and give of ourselves to raise them up.
Jesus gave three years to raise up the disciples who went on to change the world. None of us know the potential God has placed in any new believer. It’s a fact that every great ‘mover and shaker’ for God first came to Christ as a weak, sinful, trembling sinner who had to learn from the ground up. All of them came into the body with weak hands and feeble knees, as did you and I. Even today, many years down the line, I still have moments when my extremities seem to want to revert to their old frailty. I am blessed, as many others are, with strong, committed believers who don’t scorn these shaky moments. They are believers who love others unreservedly and are willing to step in without judgement and see me through. They also know that I will always do the same for them.
Love others as we love ourselves.
In a world with a ‘me, myself, I’ mantra, this is an inconceivable notion. Yet that very rarity is what makes it so profound and powerful. We have to exercise wisdom and discernment when we love others, and the Word of God teaches us to take care of our own before we take care of others. This is simple common sense. If we don’t, it means we expect someone else to. God has ordained the family structure to ensure that we are all cared for. There are also the ‘freeloaders’ out there, those who expect everything and give nothing, and aren’t willing to shoulder responsibility when they are able to do so. These are not the ones God tells us to care for, and He will quickly point it out if we ask Him. But we are still required to love them, no matter who or what they are.
More than that, we are expected to love them as we love ourselves. We are to value them as much as we value ourselves, and give unreservedly of ourselves. This is the example Jesus set in laying down His life for those who did not deserve it and even those who would not accept it. When we hold back, we diminish the love of God and we diminish what He has accomplished in us. We deny the full Gospel and withhold the grace of God from those who, like us, desperately need it. It’s human to get impatient when the weak hands and feeble needs cannot seem to find what they need to stand and gain the victory. When that happens, though, let’s put ourselves in their place. Let’s also ask ourselves what would have happened to Peter had not Jesus graciously reached out in love and restored him.
God’s love in us is our way to love others.
It comes down to the immeasurable grace of God. Jesus prayed that His disciples would know the full measure of the love of God. He knew we needed it for our own sakes but also to empower us do what is impossible in our human nature – to truly love others. The magnitude – the length, depth, breadth, and height – of the love of God is immeasurable. It is too much for any human being to hold. His love cannot be contained and must spill over to those around us. Let’s learn from Scripture and seek first to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we do, His love is manifest in us and loving others will be joy rather than struggle. His love has the power to pour out despite our weaknesses. He will empower our weak hands and feeble knees so we can help others.
Thank You, Lord, for Your immeasurable love and grace. Forgive us for looking to ourselves and for our impatience with the weaknesses of others. Help to always remember that we are all sinners saved by grace, and that we have our own failings and frailty. Release Your love in us in greater measure and help us to love You with all that we are. Give us grace to love others and to give ourselves as Jesus did to raise them up into godly and faithful disciples.