Christ-Like Disciples (4)
We close this series of articles on the characteristics of our Lord Jesus Christ with what should be one of the most obvious ones: His love. I say ‘obvious’ because He spoke of the need for love so often, and He demonstrated it by His actions. But this characteristic would hopefully be expected, since John told us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It would be impossible to be love and then not love!
Jesus Himself once said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 14:13), but then He went out and died for His enemies! How great must His love be, then? It is this great love to which Paul refers when he admonishes us to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2). It is this same great measure of love Jesus used as the standard of measure for the love we must have when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). So important is this love that He would then add, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). As we have seen with all the other characteristics of Jesus, this is something that must be one of our characteristics, too. It is how the world will know we are one of His disciples. As the ISBE puts it, “As love is the highest expression of God and His relation to mankind, so it must be the highest expression of man’s relation to his Maker and to his fellow-man.” This is something we should make our identifying characteristic, for it most closely identifies us with Christ!
And we must know that the love that was a major part of who Jesus was [and is] does not follow the worldly view of love; it is agape [avga,ph], a sacrificial love that seeks the good of others before self. Again, the ISBE says of love that it is “an earnest and anxious desire for and an active and beneficent interest in the well-being of the one loved.” It is a willful feeling and the action that follows as a means of demonstrating one’s genuine desire for the other’s well-being. In every way, Jesus demonstrated this kind of love throughout His earthly life.
Once, when a rich, young ruler came to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Before Jesus gave him the answer he would not like, it is said, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Then Jesus told him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (Mark 10:17-21). Jesus loved this man, though he would reject the answer Jesus gave. Jesus loved him because He loves all, regardless of how they will respond to Him. That is a sacrificial love, shown without concern for whether the love is returned in kind.
At another time, after the death of Lazarus, Jesus came to see him and, unknown to anyone else, raise him from the dead. But even with the knowledge of what He would do, Jesus, when He came to where Mary and Martha were and saw Mary weeping “and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” (John 11:32, 33). And when He asked to see where Lazarus was laid and they told Him to come and see, “Jesus wept,” and those who saw Him weep said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:34-36). Yes, Jesus did love Lazarus, but He also loved Mary and Martha and felt the sorrow they felt at the loss of their brother. The love Jesus had was one that considered the feelings of others, whether joy or sorrow, and felt what they felt because the love is genuine.
Finally, the love of Jesus is what was behind His choice to come to this Earth and give Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Again, Paul reminds us Jesus “loved us and given Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2), and even brought it down to the most personal level when he wrote that Christ “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). We, who were ungodly (Rom. 5:6), were sinners (Rom. 5:8), and the enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), must know that Jesus died for us. To say the least, this love is sacrificial, and Jesus was willing to go to the greatest lengths to prove it.
Now, what about us?
Our Love Must Be Unconditional. We all know the story of the Prodigal Son, and may remember that when the son came to his senses and returned, “when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). He did this because the father still loved the son, though he had made some very foolish choices. It is this kind of love Jesus has for all who are lost, willing to die for them though they may have little to no concern for Him or loving Him in return. This is the love we must have and must demonstrate, for as Jesus said in another place, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Our love must not be one that loves only those who love us, or expects some benefit from it. It must be as Christ’s love for us: Unconditional.
Our Love Must Be Genuine. The love Jesus had and which we must have fits perfectly within the description outlined by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian brethren (1 Cor. 13:4-8). If it does not meet that description, then it is the wrong kind of love, or not love at all. Alone those lines, let us keep in mind that the love of Jesus was genuine, and not merely putting on a show for others to see. Peter admonished the early disciples that since they had a “sincere love of the brethren,” they were to then “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). In other words, since their conversion led to a genuine love of their brethren, they were to then demonstrate that sincere love in continued sincerity, and with no ulterior motives. A love that looks for something in return is not love at all.
Our Love Must Be Sacrificial. If we are to truly have the love Christ had and which He demonstrated so perfectly, then it must truly be the agape, sacrificial love. We must be willing to give of our time, resources, and our unlimited service to God and to our fellow man, making whatever sacrifices are needed to lead them to know, believe, and obey Jesus Christ.
Paul said he had surrendered his liberties and made himself “a servant to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor. 9:19) and would later say he did so, “not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33).
How about us? Would others know we are Christ’s by our love? — Steven Harper