This is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. – 2 John 1:6
Genuine Christian love involves much more than warm feelings, affectionate hugs, and tender affection. While love may very well include emotions and stir our feelings, the love that the Bible calls us to is first and foremost an act of the will.
When the apostle John exhorted his readers to love, he linked that call directly to what God commands. Jesus spoke of love in the same way when he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). So to express biblical love is to do what God has commanded. The world tells us that love means affirming and admiring; the Scriptures do not. In fact, love means obeying our Creator’s commands. Perhaps heeding God’s commands will sometimes require us to give a hug—as when we “rejoice with those who rejoice” or “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). But at other times, genuine Christian love may call for correction, admonition, rebuke, or exhortation.
One key to understanding this love is to consider the manner in which Jesus called His followers to love one another. “This is my commandment,” He said, “that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12, emphasis added). Then He added, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (v 13). The call to love, then, is ultimately a call for us to give as Jesus gave. It is a call for us to resolve, no matter what, to seek the good of others—even when that pursuit comes at great risk or cost to ourselves.
We know that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). That joy, however, was not immediate. We need only look to Gethsemane or Christ’s cry of forsaken anguish from the cross for evidence of that. Likewise, there is an eternal joy set before us, and we need not doubt that every act of costly love “will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). But for now, to love well will often take a toll. It will require us to press on with loving someone when we don’t necessarily feel like doing so. It will demand that we give when we just don’t want to anymore.
But the good news is that “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Not only is Christ your example, but, by His Spirit, He will empower you to walk with Him on the sacrificial path of love. Ask yourself, then, whom the Lord has given you to love today. And then ask yourself what loving them in the way that obeys God’s commandments will look like. For that is real love, and it is that love that we are called to walk in each day.
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