Monday, July 6, 2009

Love as I Have Loved You

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
- John 13:34-35 -

Usually this passage is cited by someone who doesn't understand that it is loving to be discerning, to call out and expose heresy and even lesser error for what it is. But I'd ask you to strip away all such conceptions of these verses -- whether you've made those bad arguments or have been made to sit through listening to them -- and hear what Jesus is actually saying here.

The command is to love each other the way He loved us. So we've got to ask: How has He loved us? What does Romans 5 say about the way that God demonstrates His love to His people? It says:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So how does God love us in Christ? He dies in our place and on our behalf. So then, should we go out and look for ways to die for our brethren? Is that what 1 John 3:16 means? Let's look at that:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
It's a perfect application of John 13:34. How did He love us? He laid down His life for us? How then ought we love? By laying down our lives for the brethren. So I ask again: Should we go out and look for ways to die for our brethren?

Well, I do think that love for one's neighbor may in some circumstances extend to actually giving one's physical life in the place of his brother or sister. But I don't suppose I'll get too much disagreement (from the few of you who read this) that we can understand the Apostle's instruction to be that we ought to spend our lives in service to the brethren. Said another way, that we would lay down our lives to benefit each other.
And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."
In other words, Jesus' promised blessing of having a saved life after one loses it doesn't only apply to martyrs. We all must take up our cross and die daily to our own suicidal and obsessive love affair with ourselves. All our self-terminating, self-glorifying, Christ-ignoring, and others-neglecting desires must be crucified. In that way, we are to lose our lives.

So how does one most gladly spend and be expended for the souls of his brethren (2Cor 12:15)? How do we love our neighbor as ourselves the way Christ loved His neighbor as Himself? In what enterprise are we to engage as we give our lives away in service to, or in benefit of, our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Well, how did He do it? By dying for us. But why did He die for us? 1 Peter 3:18:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.
Why did He die for us? How has He loved us? He has ushered us into the presence of God! He has brought us to our greatest joy and benefit: God Himself! Consider the glory to be enjoyed in the presence of Almighty God Himself! Let this land on you!
  • Psalm 16:11 In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
  • Psalm 21:6 For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.
  • Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
  • Psalm 26:8 O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells.
  • Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.
  • Psalm 36:8-9 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.
  • Psalm 43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy.
  • Psalm 65:4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
  • Psalm 73:28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.
This is how Jesus loved us. This is what His death and resurrection purchased for us: to enjoy God in His presence forever! Jesus loved us by presenting God (Himself) to us.

So when we consider that we are to love our neighbor "even as He has loved us," we must understand that we too must love this way. We must spend and be expended to usher everyone around us into the presence of God. We are, in everything we do, to present Christ to the world! To present to them their greatest joy, satisfaction, and benefit!

That's exactly how Jesus has loved us!

- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4

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