“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”John 15:9-12 NLT
Maybe you’ve heard that song, it goes like this: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…”
That song was written years ago, and there’s a lot of truth there. The world really does need more love – more of God’s love. Unfortunately, the world has a very shallow meaning of love. Today that word is bandied about without a thought. Never has there been a time when so many people talk about love, yet so few really understand it and show it.
Even in the church, we’ve lost our way when it comes to showing the love of Christ, both to the world and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And the sad part is that the church has the secret to winning the world, but we’ve let it slide through our fingers.
The world is starving for love, longing for love, but they’re not finding the love they’re searching for in the church. Young people who have been raised in the church are leaving because they’re no longer finding love in the church. Many churches are dying and being forced to close their doors. We’re not seeing revival and new converts in our churches.
Why? Because we’ve forgotten the greatest commandment of all – love one another.
We’re Asked to Obey to Remain in God’s Love
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…”
In this passage of scripture, Jesus starts by telling us how much he loves us. He loves us just like the Father loves him. Stop and think about that for a minute. Jesus loves you and me just as the Father loves him.
Jesus goes on to say, “Remain in my love.” And how do we remain in his love? He says by obeying his commandments. Now, this doesn’t mean that Jesus is going to stop loving us if we fail to follow his commandments. But, if we want to stay in the sunshine of his love and in the center of his will where we are blessed and fellowshipping with him, we must obey his commandments.
The Overlooked Commandment: Love One Another
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”
Next, Jesus gives us the commandment he wants us to follow. Notice that he doesn’t start listing the 10 commandments here. No, he says here is my commandment: I want you to love one another just as I love you. Just love one another, and you’ll stay in the center of my will, in my light, and in my love.
Just love. Love. It’s the very essence of God. The entire gospel – all of Christianity – boils down to this right here. Love one another.
Love will fulfill every commandment.
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
- Honor thy father and thy mother…
- Thou shalt not kill.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
- Thou shalt not covet…
If we truly follow the commandment of Jesus – love one another – we won’t steal from others because we love them. We won’t lie, we won’t covet, we won’t commit adultery. Why? Because we love one another.
Loving as the Father loves and Jesus loves, that will take care of all the commandments. But, you can follow all of the 10 commandments, and if you don’t have love, you’re not obeying God. You’re not walking in the light. You’re not staying and basking in his love for you.
Remember what the apostle Paul says in I Corinthians:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”I Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
We can follow every teaching in the Bible. We can go to church on Sunday. We can do good works. We can even give all our goods to the poor and sacrifice ourselves, and if we don’t follow the commandment of Jesus to love one another, it is ALL nothing.
Let me stop a minute and say this: according to the well-known pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, Jim Cymbala, “The great hypocrisy of Christianity today is that we accept not loving people.”
Stop and think about that for a moment. In the church, if someone is living in adultery, we would call out that sin. If someone were embezzling from their boss, this sin would be confronted. But the church has become completely complacent about the lack of love for others.
How many times have we said, “Well, Jesus wouldn’t go to that place,” or “Jesus wouldn’t do that.” And yet the church completely glosses over a lack of love for others.
In our churches today, there’s a lot of gossip, criticizing, anger, selfishness, and anger. When we gossip about other people, we walk away from that love that God wants us to have for one another. If we’re criticizing the pastor, our neighbor, or someone at work, we’re straying from that love. When we say words in anger, we’re failing to love like Jesus told us to do.
That angry, hateful spirit that we see in the world today – it’s infiltrated the church. We don’t think twice about judging other people. Some people are downright mean to others if they don’t agree with them. How can we expect to see revival, how can we expect to see new converts when we have grieved away the blessing of the Holy Spirit with angry and judgmental talk, messages, or social media posts?
Let’s stop and take a minute to talk about how Christians are posting on social media today. There’s a lot of talk about online bullying and hate speech on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But it’s not just a problem in the world – it’s a problem in the church, too.
Recently, I saw a Facebook post written by a church member, and that post was poking fun at a person they’d seen at the store and how they were dressed. And a bunch of other people chimed in, making nasty, unkind comments about how people in the ‘world’ dress. I couldn’t help but wonder what unchristian people in that community would think if they ever saw that post. The people of the church make fun of you on Facebook for what you wear. That’s not love. The church will never bring in the lost if people are making fun of them on social media.
Jesus wouldn’t make fun of people. Jesus wouldn’t talk about people behind their back. Love doesn’t speak unkindly of others. Too many churches are slowly dying. They’re losing members. Church doors are closing. And people sit in the church pews shaking their heads saying, “It’s the end times – there’s a great falling away. There’s nothing we can do about this.”
No! The problem is the church has lost its love.
Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love one another. He says, “love each other in the same way that I have loved you.” Stop and just consider how Jesus has loved us. Jesus left everything behind to come to earth to save us. He loved us so much that he couldn’t bear to be without us. The love of Jesus is so incredible that he laid down his life for us. And not only did he die for us, but he also took all of our sins upon him.
I don’t think we fully comprehend what that means sometime. Jesus took all our sins upon himself when he died on the cross. Every sin of every person was on his shoulders on that cross. And the most painful thing of all was that the Father had to turn away from that sin, and Jesus had to lose the very presence of the Father as he died so that we could be free from sin. Jesus didn’t cry out because of all the pain (which was significant), but he cried out on the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus gave up everything for us. Jesus laid down his life willingly for us. And THAT is the kind of love he commands us to have. “Love each other in the same way that I have loved you.”
I Corinthians 13 gives us a closer look at the kind of love Jesus wants us to have for others:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”I Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
I read those words again, and I’m convicted. Am I showing that kind of love? That’s what Jesus has commanded me to do. How patient am I with other people? Am I kind? Do I demand my own way? Am I irritable with others? Do I keep track of when people wrong me, or do I just forgive and keep loving them? Do I think the best of people, or am I judging them? Have I given up on people in my life? Love doesn’t give up. How do I measure up to the Bible’s definition of love? Am I loving people as Jesus loves me?
As Christians, we need to get down on our knees before God and ask ourselves these questions in his presence. Are we loving others as he has loved us? Has our lack of love for our fellow Christians and unbelievers grieved Jesus away from our churches? Have we been criticizing other people in the church instead of loving them? Have we been saying hateful, unkind things about others or gossiping?
The Church Needs to Repent
We have overlooked the command of Jesus – love one another – as a church. We have lost the very heart of Christianity. But we can repent. Jesus is always merciful. And he’s asking for our obedience.
What we need is more time in the presence of Jesus. That’s the cure for anger and a lack of love. Spending time with the one who is the very essence of love. As Christians, we need to take the time to go down on our knees before God in repentance. We need to spend time with Jesus without all the distractions of this world.
And as we’re praying, we need to pray for our fellow believers. They’re our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we must love them. When we start praying for people and bringing them before Jesus, it starts changing us. It’s difficult to speak unkind words or to spread gossip about someone you’re praying for.
Along with our fellow believers, we need to pray for unbelievers. We must ask God for a heart that loves the world like he does. As God bathes our heart in his love, we won’t find ourselves making fun of how they dress. We won’t be whispering about their sins behind their back. We won’t be using hateful words when we speak about them because they aren’t believers.
When we’re filled with the love of Jesus, we’ll be filled with compassion for unbelievers. Instead of wrapping our ‘righteous’ robes around us in contempt and trying to stay away from sinners, we’ll be like Jesus was – we’ll eat with them, go home with them, spend time with them, and love them. And that’s how you win people to Jesus. Just by following the command Jesus gave us – love one another.
Love Opens the Door to Joy, Answered Prayers, and Reaching Others
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
What happens when we start obeying Jesus, following his command, and remaining in his love? He tells us right here – we will be filled with his joy. In fact, our joy will overflow. You see, obedience and love open the door to joy, to answered prayers, and to reaching others.
Are you feeling like things in your Christian walk aren’t what they need to be? Start asking God to help you love others as he commanded. Feeling down and lonely? Start loving people. Jesus has promised joy.
As a church, we’ve lost our joy because we’ve lost our love. And the world is watching, and what they so often see is church members that quarrel among themselves. They see a group of unhappy people. And they’re not attracted to our churches. In fact, if you mention church to many unbelievers, they want to run in the other direction.
Why? The church has ceased to love one another.
Love has a drawing power. It attracts people like a magnet. And when we start loving people as God has commanded, we’ll bring back the power of Jesus into our churches.
We’ll begin seeing the miracles we’ve been praying for. Revival will break out. We’ll love people right through the doors of our churches. Our compassion and our prayers and the Holy Spirit will bring people to Jesus.
When we love one another, our pews won’t be empty anymore. We won’t have to close the doors of another church because there will be so much love and so much joy that people will be flocking to our churches because they are drawn to the light of love.
The church needs revival. And this is the key. Jesus says, “This is my commandment: love one another in the same way I have loved you.”
As I’ve sat here writing this piece, I’ve been humbled and convicted myself. Many of these words have been typed with tears in my eyes as I’ve asked God to help me. I believe that this is the greatest problem of the church today – we’ve gotten comfortable overlooking this commandment. After all, loving people can be uncomfortable at times.
I don’t want to be a bad advertisement for Jesus. I want to love people. And what would happen today if every church and every Christian just loved as Jesus commanded us to? It would be incredible what the world would see. A revival like we’ve never seen would break out if we just started to love people.
It’s my prayer today that Jesus will light my heart on fire with his love. May I love people with the same love that he has shown to me. And I truly believe that when we as a church grab hold of this truth, repent and obey the command to love others, the Holy Spirit will move. Jesus will be on the scene. The church will be set on fire. Revival will come. And hearts will be won to Christ because the world said, “See how they love one another.”