Summary: We know that loving each other is much more than just a good idea. Jesus said: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another...Knowing that we should love other Christians and even saying that we love other Christians is not enough. We must

Purpose: To show that we are free to love other Christians when we are fully trusting in Christ.

Aim: I want Christians to look for ways to improve how they love other Christians.

INTRODUCTION: We know that loving each other is much more than just a good idea. Jesus said: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34 NAU).

If we refuse to love other Christians then we are not Christians. John made this truth very clear: "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8 NAU). Since some of the members of the church in Corinth were struggling with loving other believers Paul confronted them with the possibility that they were not really Christians. Notice what he told them: "...we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20 NAU)

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5 NAU).

An unloving attitude among church goers is an evidence of a lack of spiritual life. "A large quantity of radioactive material was stolen from a hospital. When the hospital administrator notified the police, he said: 'Please warn the thief that he is carrying death with him, and that the radioactive material cannot be successfully hidden. As long as he has it in his possession, it is affecting him disastrously!'" [1] So it is with dislike or indifference toward other Christians.

Knowing that we should love other Christians and even saying that we love other Christians is not enough. We must be sure that we are actually doing it. So, let's begin by asking:

I. How do Christians Show that they Love each other?

Two of the prominent themes of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians are #1 the need for brotherly love and #2 Christ's love for us through the Gospel. For example, Paul says that "For the love of Christ controls us... " (2 Corinthians 5:14 NAU) and Paul also talks about "...the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4 NAU).

In Paul's first letter to this church he had to rebuke them for some serious problems in the church. The worst problem was probably their tolerance of a church member who was involved in open sexual sin. The church as a whole responded correctly to Paul's instruction in the first letter about the matter, but there were still lingering divisions in the church and criticism of Paul's leadership that he had to deal with in the second letter. This is why this letter from Paul gives us a list of tests that we can give ourselves that will show if we are REALLY loving other Christians.

Before we look at eight statements that Paul makes that describe what loving other believers really looks like, let me give you a very important warning. God's main purpose for His Word is to be a mirror where we can see ourselves. Please resist the temptation of looking at these eight statements to see if others are loving you.

1:3-7 A. We should be a comfort to each other

God doesn't comfort us just so we can have comfort. He does it so we can share that comfort with other Christians [see verses 6 & 7].

1:11 B. We should pray for each other

When someone offends you or bothers you, do you pray for them? We cannot be angry at a person and be praying for God to bless them at the same time.

1:21-22 C. We are all joined together by God

Paul uses the pronoun "us" four times in these two verses. It is God that has brought us together, so separating ourselves from or ignoring other believers denies God's work in the church.

1:24-2:3 D. We should bring joy to each other

It is not loving when we just tolerate each other. We need to bring joy to each other. This is why the Bible says, "let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24--25 NAU).

2:6-9 E. We should forgive believers who repent

Forgiving someone means treating them as if they had never sinned. If we are not seeking to comfort a believer who has gotten right with God then we have not forgiven them.

3:2-3; 7:3 F. We should tenderly care for each other

Our care for each other should flow from a heart that desires to care. Acts of kindness out of an attitude of duty is not real love. We should want to be with other Christians and we should be willing to die for other Christians.

6:1, 11-13 G. We should want to work together

Notice that Paul took the first step of opening himself up to these church members who weren't opening up to him. If other believers are keeping us at arms distance then we need to take the initiative to bridge the gap.

6:14- 7:2 H. We should value Christ more than any other relationship

When we value what the world values we cannot love each other as we should. Do you have friendships with unbelievers with whom you are not in the process of sharing the Gospel? You should see yourself as a missionary to anyone who does not know Christ.

When we value anything more than our relationship to Jesus Christ then (7:2) it will crowd out our love for other believers.

All of this is true, but how can we love others when we don't feel able to do it?

II. How can Christians Show that they Love each other?

Love involves risk, because loving someone else makes us vulnerable. In order to love someone else we must open our heart to them which makes it easier for them to hurt us. Since loving other believers is a command, we do NOT have the option of keeping other Christians at arm's length.

So, how can we love other Christians when we are afraid we will be hurt by other Christians or if we have been hurt by other Christians?

There are two simple principles that will set us free to love others.

3:18; 5:17 A. Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in others

Fear creeps into our relationships because we can't control what the other person may do. Others are free to make their own choices and they may choose to betray us, ignore us, or be critical of us.

It may be easier to trust that the Holy Spirit is working in us than it is to trust that the Holy Spirit is working someone else. Failures in another Christian are not final!

God is in the process of working in their lives. They can change.

As weak and as unfaithful the Corinthian believers were notice how Paul talks to them: "Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf...." (2 Corinthians 7:4 NAU). "I rejoice that in everything I have confidence in you" (2 Corinthians 7:16 NAU).

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6 NAU). We should have a positive attitude about other believers who are struggling in their walk with Christ. Our confidence is NOT in them, but in the Holy Spirit who is working in them.

This frees us up to pray confidently for them and to continue to encourage them.

B. Trust in Christ's love for you

The second ingredient we need in order to love other Christians is a rock solid conviction that we are totally and wholeheartedly loved by God. Paul declares that "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5 NAU).

Paul described God's love as "...His great love with which He loved us" (Ephesians 2:4 NAU).

When we are fully satisfied that we are completely and eternally loved by God we will not be devastated when others don't love us the way we expect.

Milton Vincent describes our problem this way: "I fear that if I do not love myself there would be no one left to love me quite so well as I do." [2]

This is why the Bible says to "keep yourselves in the love of God..." (Jude 21 NAU). Jesus Himself told us:"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:9--10 NAU).

The love of God drives out the fear of flawed relationships: "...for He Himself has said, 'I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,' so that we confidently say, 'THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?'" (Hebrews 13:5--6 NAU).

Just knowing that God loves us is not always enough. We need to pray for each other that we will constantly be aware of that love. "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17--19 NAU).

CONCLUSION: Are you sure that you are completely loved by God? "You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ's, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ's, so also are we" (2 Corinthians 10:7 NAU).

In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus told a story about man who was hopelessly in debt to his king. Since he couldn't repay it the king decided to forgive the entire debt. That same man went out and found someone who owed him a small about of money. Instead of showing mercy he had him arrested. The king found out and "... said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:32--35 NAU).

Fear of being hurt can keep us from loving other Christians as we should. That fear, though, reveals that we love ourselves more than we love Christ because we are valuing our feelings more than our forgiveness.

If we believe God when He says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness" (Jeremiah 31:3 NAU) then...

"I am always willing to show love to others when I am freshly mindful of the love that God has shown me." Milton Vincent

[1]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (1 Jn 4:7). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[2]Vincent, Milton (2008). A Gospel Primer for Christians Focus Publishing