Title: The Command to Love
Text: “This I command you, to love one another.” (John 15:17 RSV)
Bible Reading: John 15:12-17
Among the great abilities that characterized the life of Jesus was His everlasting determination to practice genuine love toward those who crossed His pathway. If we want to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we too must see life as an opportunity to love, and we must see people as those to whom we have the opportunity of demonstrating genuine Christian love. The message today is about love. It’s the strongest emotion that a person can feel, and the New Testament contains many admonitions to love God and others. It’s what John wrote about in Chapter 15 of his gospel. There it says--
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
17 This I command you, to love one another.
There are three parts to the message:
1. We are commanded to love.
2. The Greeks used different words to describe different kinds of love.
3. Jesus said, “Love one another, even as I have loved you.”
I want to begin by saying “We are commanded to love.”
John, the apostle who called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” wrote this about God’s love for us:
8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation [or payment] for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:8-11)
The first verse presents us with one of God’s greatest attrubutes: he is love. But, love is not a definition of God—God is infinitely more—but God is the definition of love. Without Him, love does not exist. God’s love is self-starting, indestructible, undeserved, compassionate, constant, immeasurable, voluntary, and a gift. He did not begin loving at the Cross, nor will He love us more tomorrow than He does today. There is nothing we can do, think, or say that will change His love because there are no surprises for God—He knows us totally and loves us anyway.
The goal of God’s love is to have us with Him throughout eternity. He made this goal possible through Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross. There are five things about God’s command to love that I want to show you.
The first is, we are commanded to love God completely.
We are to put God first at all times. Matthew puts it this way, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37) Love is evidence of salvation. If you are born again through faith in Jesus Christ, you have His nature within you. Since “God is love,” His children who have His nature should also make His love known to others. The children should be like their Father!
Another thing about God’s command to love is that we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:39).
Most of us have a problem about this point because we don’t love ourselves the way we should. Therefore, we do not have a proper measure by which to know how to truly love our neighbor. Our love for others makes God’s love real and visible to them, so we can better witness to them about Christ. It also makes God real and personal to us.
Merely reading in the Bible about God’s love is not enough. We need to experience that love in our heart by sharing it with others. This is what Jesus had to say about it; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
There is another command and perhaps it is the hardest to accept; we are commanded to love our enemies. Most of us have difficulty at this point because we think of love as an emotion, a sentimental attachment, or a romantic attachment. In one of His sermons, Jesus had this to say about loving your enemies.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 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. (Matt. 5:43-45).
This is part of the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus said this the popular attitude was, “hate thine enemy.” The command to love your enemies is one of the greatest statements Jesus ever made, and it shocked the disciples.
The kind of love required in this passage is love which can only originate from God Himself! We are not commanded to attempt to love our enemies on the basis of simple human affection but rather on the basis of a love which comes from God. This kind of love is unique since it is a gift from God and the fruit of the Spirit for believers only. It is not something that someone can muster within himself. Rather, it must come from God Himself into the life of the believer.
So how does anyone love an enemy? Notice that the passage makes it clear that he does not have to attempt to work up an artificial feeling of love. The type of love commanded here is expressed by giving. We are told to bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you. Loving an enemy involves doing good toward that enemy in order to win him over to the cause that you represent.
The message of Jesus is that we will win over those who oppose us more easily with love than with hatred. It is not by argument and anger that we win souls for Christ, but by giving out the gospel and the love of Christ.
There is a forth command and that is, we are commanded to love one another.
Jesus said, “This I command you, to love one another” (John 15:17). Loving one another is a command, not an option. It’s how believers show they are different from nonbelievers. The principle stated here is that every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. The negative principle is, “He that loves not doesn’t know God.”
The proof of God’s love for us was clearly seen when He sent His only Son into the world to die on the Cross as our Savior. God’s love for us makes us obligated to love one another, because this is the only way we can show that we really have love. Claiming to love God is meaningless without showing love to each other.
One final command is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He said, “Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25, 33). This presents problems, because the only kind of love that some people know anything about is romantic love. It says in Ephesians 5:
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Eph. 5:25, 33).
Husbands are to love their wives in the same way in which Christ sacrificially loved the church. Husbands must not be “bitter” or harsh with their wives. Paul explained that the husband should love his wife like he does his own body, because the two are actually one. Here God says that marriage provides a picture of the ultimate and eternal love between Christ and His church. Christ loved us and died for us, but today He loves us and cares for us.
The subject of the second part of the message is, “The Greeks used different words to describe different kinds of love”.
We overuse and misuse the word love. The Greek language had four words for love, and therefore, it was much clearer in helping people understand the different forms and expressions of love.
The first word was storge. Storge refers to natural family love, the love of parents for children and children for parents, and the love of grandparents for grandchildren. It is even used for the love of an animal for her young. Storge also expresses the loving affection between a husband and wife. This type of love forms a strong bond between family members, and it can be seen in the kindness and gentleness that passes between them.
The next word for love is Eros. Eros is sensual love, “need” love or “me” love. Love on this level is often selfish, instead of self-giving. Love on this level seeks gratification and pleasure. This type of love is becoming the norm today. Today, young people are engaged in sexual activities at an early age. Adults today are having affairs more frequently and marriages are being replaced by men and women living together. That is Eros love.
The third Greek word for love is Philia. Philia is “friendship” love or “respect” love. It expresses itself in generosity and friendship. It is love without any romantic content. Often it is love based on the worth of the one being loved. This type of love can be expressed as wholesome, natural affection among friends, and sometimes it leads to warm Christian fellowship or brotherly love.
The last word for love is Agape. Agape is self-giving, Christlike love. This is the type of love found in John 3:16. It is the love God had for us when He sent His only begotten Son to the cross for our sins. Agape love is “help” or “gift” love. It is unmerited love. Agape love finds its source in the heart of the giver rather in the loveliness of the recipient. In a good marriage a person can have all four types of love as described by these four Greek words.Not being able to make these distinctions can lead to confusion about the type of love that is commanded in the scriptures.
The third part of the message comes from Jesus’ own words, “Love one another, even as I have loved you.”
Christian love is not something we get naturally. It is not emotional. It is not a mere feeling. And Christian love is not automatic. But Christian love is an activity we are all called to participate in. I want to say four things about what Christian love is all about.
First,Christian love is a lesson all of us should learn, and Jesus is the teacher. Jesus taught that we should love all people, even our enemies. And He gave us an example of that type of love by dying on a cross, because of our sins. He died for us while we were His enemies. And He did it because He loves you.
Second,Christian love is a habit all of us should practice. One time Jesus told His disciples to “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” Another way to say it is, “Don’t stop the children from coming to Me.” Christian love includes action. Jesus rebuked His disciples and received the little children by taking them up in His arms and blessing them.
And Jesus wants for us to practice the habit of showing love to all people.
Third,Christian love is a commandment that all of us should obey. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Therefore, loving others is a commandment and not an option.
Finally, Christian love is a principle all of us should follow. When Jesus gave this command to love, He was talking to believers. We are to love each other as He has loved us. It is sad to see Christians who tear down each other and gossip about one another. The Spirit of God is not working in such a situation. A person can have good Bible teaching and still reject this commandment. To love like Jesus loves us is putting our love on a very high plane. Only the Spirit of God can produce such love in our lives.
There is one more thing I want to say about the command to love. Jesus loved His disciples, and He wants us to love in the same way.
Jesus showed His love for His disciples in six ways.
First,He loved His disciples and accepted them as they were. They all had flaws. For instance, Peter lacked courage. He told Jesus he would go to jail with him and even die with him, but he denied he even knew Jesus after he was arrested.
Thomas doubted the resurrection until Jesus came to him personally, and showed him the scars caused by crucifixion. None of them went to the cross with Jesus except for John. Instead, they hid in fear. Most of them were uneducated fisherman. They were crude when they spoke and often Jesus had to correct them. But, these are the men He chose to build His church, and He loved them and accepted them as they were even with all their faults. And today, Jesus accepts us just as we are; when we come to Him all we can bring with us is our sin. You see, He loves us even though He knows everything about us. Folks, if you’re here this morning, and you don’t love Jesus, I have something to say to you. Jesus loves you anyway and He wants you to accept Him and spend eternity with him.
Second,Jesus loved His disciples and acknowledged them.
For more than three years He taught them. They were ear and eye witnesses of all the miracles and all of His teachings. Jesus kept them close to Him and He took care of them. He defended them from the attacks by the Pharisees, and He even fed them when they were hungry.
Third,Jesus loved His disciples helpfully.
Jesus gave them everything they needed to complete the mission He gave them. After His resurrection, He told them to take the gospel to the world, and to help them do it He gave them the power to raise the dead and heal the sick. Later, on the Day of Pentecost, He gave them His Spirit to take up residence inside them. He would show them where to go and tell them what to say.
Forth,Jesus loved His disciples and forgave them fully. The disciples were forgiven the same way we are. They had to believe in Jesus, confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. The formula for forgiveness has not changed in over 2100 years.
Fifth, Jesus loved His disciples tenderly and kindly, yet firmly. Perhaps the best illustration that I can give happened at the end of His earthly life. He gathered the twelve in an upper room. Then He took a bowl of water and a towel and washed their feet. In this tender way, Jesus showed them that He valued the attitude of humble servants.
Sixth,Jesus loved His disciples sacrificially. Just think about all the things Jesus gave up for us; His home in heaven, His glory, and the constant companionship of the Father. And look what He got in return; He was rejected, He was slandered and called names, and He was tortured and crucified. Why did He do it? He did it because He loves you!
Sum it all up.
Christian love is more than an emotion or a feeling. Christian love is an activity that follows a decision of commitment to make Jesus our Savior and Lord. Let us look into the face of every person we meet and see him or her as one for whom Jesus Christ died. Let us look into the face of everyone and see one who needs the love that we can give, because of the presence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Let us look into the mirror and see for ourselves the one for whom Jesus Christ died on the cross.
As we seek to love God absolutely, let us decide to love ourselves appropriately, and perhaps we will find it easier to be obedient to our Lord’s command,“Love one another, even as I have loved you.” By doing so, we will find ourselves continually wearing the badge that indicates that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ.
In John 13:34, Jesus gives us a new commandment. He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you are fundamental in the faith.” What is “fundamental faith?” It is believing that the Word of God is pure and true and that it was inspired by God the Holy Spirit; and believing that Jesus is God, and that He died upon a cross to pay our debt of sin; that he died a substitutionary, shocking death for the sins of the world.
I believe He was raised bodily and ascended back into heaven and that someday He is coming personally to take His church out of the world. But I want to say this and I want to say it very carefully; Believing the things I just stated doesn’t convince the outside world. The world is dying for just a little love.
Jesus says that His disciples are to be known for their love. Please, look at yourself. Ask, “Do I love Jesus and do I love others like I should?” If you can’t answer yes to both questions, then you should make sure of your salvation.
I would be glad to help you!