With all the unraveling of our social spheres over the last 12 months, it feels as if our society has forgotten how to love one another. Deep down, I know that’s not entirely true. Yet as I look around our hurting world and the ease so many seem to find in attacking each other from behind electronic screens or scowling from behind masks, it seems we could all use a fresh perspective on what it looks like to love like Jesus, just as we’re taught in the Bible.
1 John 5:3
As Christians, how can strengthen our society through acts of love? In Christ, we have such power—and the impact could be greater than we imagine.
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The lack of love we currently see in our world comes with dire consequences. Distrust is running rampant making us feel segmented—rather than unified—as a culture. It spurs loneliness, depression, anxiety, and also fear about the future. Deep in our hearts and spirits, we know it shouldn’t be this way.
Loving people is important for so many reasons. It reflects the love God has for His creation. Our obedience in this area helps display the Gospel of Jesus, and love is highly contagious. The more we give it to others, they, in turn, will begin to love. We identify ourselves as ambassadors of Christ—as His followers and His representatives—when we love the people of our world.
Pursuing a 1st John Kind Of Love
It isn’t always easy, even when we earnestly seek to obey the new commandment of the Bible. What seems like a lifetime ago, I connected with a small group of Christians who had a strong desire to love well. A few of the leaders in this group shared practical ways they felt our group could show greater affection and respect toward the people we met. The group seemed to go along with a few of the ideas but showed reluctance to many of them. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience.
As we worked to put the desire to love into action, disunity crept into our group. Members disagreed about how we should show it, and which of our comforts we should lay down in order to help our community feel more welcome in our midst. As I walked through this struggle with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I felt both confused and disheartened.
The Blessing of Obedience
In 1 John, we’re taught that God’s love is perfected in disciples who walk in obedience to Him. We can know that we’re abiding intimately with Him when we are walking in His footsteps, doing as He did when He walked this earth.
Each of us is called to follow hard after Jesus and do as He does. Radically speaking, this requires sacrifice. It requires selfless unconditional devotion toward others, and a willingness to decide to love even when feelings and emotions resist. That degree of obedience is hard to find. Even in Christianity, loving like Jesus is too often curbed by earthly motivations and current moods.
We read that Christ left His throne and came to earth as a man to walk among us. He laid down His life for you and for me. He was scorned, battered, ridiculed, and also beaten for us. The Son of God didn’t offer casual love, but radical love evidenced by radical sacrifice. We are called to do the same for others. If we aim to love like Jesus, there should be nothing that we are unwilling to do for or share in order to show that we love one of our brothers or sisters. And yet, our humanly hesitations prevail.
Acting in the Strength of Jesus
The entire experience within our small group opened my eyes to the limits humans often put on the love we extend. According to the sentiments of our group, it was fine to love one another so long as the group didn’t have to give up some of the comforts that they held dear. Though we’d read the Bible and desired to obey, we still had much to learn as disciples of Jesus.
Sadly, this hesitant attitude toward love permeates pockets of Christianity and too few are willing to sacrifice in our love for one another.
If there is one thing that our broken society has revealed, it is our lack of Bible-directed love for one another. As a society, and even more pointedly as disciples of Jesus, we’ve fallen short of the love that he’s called us to share. We can all do better. We must learn to let the love of Jesus course through our own veins so we can love as He does—not in our own strength, but in His. Christ will help His disciples walk in His ways and at the same time, grow our faith and the expression of our spiritual gifts.
Helpful Encouragement to Love One Another from the New Testament
Jesus gave His followers a new command, saying in John 13:34-35 (ESV), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The question becomes, how to love according to the Bible and the commandment that Christ gave in John 13. In the simplest terms, there are three practical ways:
Speak Love to One Another
We all know the power of words. Proverbs 18:21 in the English Standard Version says “Death and life are in the power of our words.” They can tear people down or build them up and Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) instructs that we use our words so they give grace to those who hear.
As a tenet of Christianity, we’re taught in the Bible to guard our words and use them carefully. We’re to use our words to speak life. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (CSB) exhorts, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.”
Learning to love is one of our primary callings of the New Testament. But how do we draw near to God and use our words as Jesus directed in the new commandment?
A Menu of Helpful Options
In her book Gracelaced, Author Ruth Chou Simons shares ways to use our words to encourage and build up. She says,
“Speak reminders of freedom in Christ. . .
Speak the joy of forgiveness in Him. . .
Speak encouragement for weariness. . .
Speak truth that convicts. . .
Speak warning of sin’s lies and deception. . .
Speak friendship and care for the battles ahead. . .”
These are tender reminders of practical ways to use our words kindly. We are to care for others as we care for ourselves. We can offer verbal encouragement for their spiritual health, their struggles with sin, and their connection to Christ—just as much as their physical well-being, their professional integrity, and matters within their families.
Show One Another
Obedience stretches beyond our words and should permeate our actions also. In the Bible, obey Jesus and do as He does. We are to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10, ESV), give to the needy (Matthew 6:2, ESV), and show acts of kindness for others (Hebrews 13:16, TPT).
Practically speaking, as a child of God and in His power, we can each show love to one another by
- Praying for them
- Listening and seeking understanding before we speak
- Delivering a meal for a family that is facing a challenge
- Celebrating together
- Sending cards or notes of encouragement through text or mail (If you don’t know what to say, a Bible verse is often well-received)
- Being vulnerable with them
- Including new people in ordinary activities that you enjoy
- Sharing books or resources that may be helpful
- Supporting a cause that’s important to them
- Share opportunities to develop their spiritual gifts
- Generously providing for the needy
- And so much more
No matter the way that you choose to demonstrate it, you are showing that you care about them and esteem them as a person. I don’t know a single person that isn’t encouraged and built up by feeling valued.
Receive Love From One Another
Too often in Christianity, we’re eager to improve the way we show esteem, yet reluctant to receive it in return. It’s often our pride that hinders us from accepting help or encouragement from those around us. The truth, however, is that It’s a privilege to receive encouragement and help from others. And it’s also a gift from God, Himself.
Receiving from Jesus is how we put our faith in action. It’s He who equips us to love in His strength rather than our own. Along the same lines, receiving the encouragement that others share is one way that we, in turn, receive it from God.
Our Heavenly Father placed us in a community—a community where each of His followers reflects all that dHe feels for us. When we reject it from others, we in essence reject the love of the Father. When we reject their help and encouragement, we forsake a meaningful gift that He shares with us.
Helpful Encouragement from Jesus—in John 17
John chapter 17 shows us the prayers of Jesus. In His closing words—while praying for you, me, and all Believers—He prays that the “love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them” (John 17:26, CSB). Another version puts it this way, that which “You have bestowed upon Me may be in them [felt in their hearts] and that I [Myself] may be in them” (John 17:26, AMP).
Jesus prayed that the Father’s love would flow through Him, that we’d experience in our hearts, and reveal it to those around us. May we learn to speak love, show it, and receive it. All for His glory.
What Does The Bible Say About Loving God and Also One Another?
The Bible is rich with encouragement from Jesus and His disciples to love God and each other. I invite you to meditate and pray through each of the verses shared below. Our aim as Christ-followers should be to abide with Jesus so fully that His love flows naturally through us.
Helpful Bible Verses About Showing Love to One Another
(Verses are from the English Standard version)
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 3:18
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 5:3
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.