Both Jesus and his disciple John teach that people who truly believe in Jesus Christ will love one another. Both teach that love for fellow believers is the expression and evidence of genuine faith in Christ:

Jesus said:

‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ – John 13:35.

‘My command is this: Love each other ... You are my friends if you do what I command’ – John 15:12, 14.

John wrote:

‘Whoever loves his brother lives in the light’ – 1John 2:10.

‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers’ – 1John 3:14.

‘Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’ – 1John 4:7, 8.

These verses make it very clear that:

If we know God, we will love.
If we have been born of God (that is, born again), we will love.
If we have passed from death to life, we will love.
If we are living in the light, we will love.
If we are Jesus’ friends we will love.
If we are Jesus’ disciples, we will love.

Loving our fellow believers is so very important that we need to ask ‘What does this love look like? How do I know if I am loving with this kind of love that is the critical evidence and expression of true faith in Jesus Christ?

The first answer to these questions is similar to a point made in the previous meditation about hate: just as a life characterised by hate identifies a person as an unbeliever, even so the love that both Jesus and John expect and command of Christians is an on-going continual attitude and characteristic: the lives of people who have genuine faith in Jesus Christ will be characterised by love. In all of the verses above the verb ‘love’ is in the present tense. John and Jesus are not talking about isolated moments of loving, but about the dominant nature of our lives. As John has taught us in 1:8 and 10, we are still sinners who sin. There will be moments when we don’t feel loving, even moments when hate rises spontaneously in our hearts. But our on-going, habitual attitude to our fellow Christians will be love.

The second answer to these questions is that this love that is to characterise our lives reflects the love of Jesus for us:

Jesus said:

‘Love each other as I have loved you ...’ – John 15:12.

John wrote:

‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ – 1John 3:16.

‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him’ – 1John 4:9.

‘This is love: ... he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ – 1John 4:10.

Paul also taught about the nature of this love:

‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ – Ephesians 4:32 – 5:1.

This life of love for each other that identifies a person as a person of genuine faith in Jesus Christ is not about saying ‘I love you.’ Nor is it about having a warm, fuzzy feeling towards someone. It is a deep inner attitude that is expressed in action. It is that deep humility, and that deep care and compassion for the other, that moved Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet. It moves us to serve the other, to seek the good and the well-being of the other, regardless of our own real or perceived rights, privileges and dignity.

Jesus put it this way:

‘“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”’ – John 13:12 – 15.

Jesus, the Lord of all power and glory, put aside his ‘rights’ and his ‘dignity’, not only to wash his disciples’ feet, but, more importantly, to die for us. This intense, self-denying humility that seeks the good of the other is the example of the love that we as his followers are commanded to follow.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022