Are Christians truly love-filled people? Do they (we) show respect for others’ opinions? Do we apologize when we offend someone? Does the pain and suffering displayed on the news affect us, or do we simply go on with the day as usual?
It isn’t usually difficult to love family and good friends, but what about everyone else? What about church members, neighbors, strangers walking down the street, or rude drivers who act like the road belongs to them? Jesus commanded His followers to love all people, but this is hard.
About 40 years ago, a pastor by the name of Richard Wirtz was diagnosed with cancer and his doctors recommended surgery. Wirtz was concerned about the surgery and prayed about it a great deal. In the hospital the night before his operation, he woke up and prayed once again for a successful surgery. Suddenly, a bright light filled the room, and he saw a glorious angel standing at the foot of his bed. Filled with fear, he closed his eyes and hid his face. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve come with good news. You’re going to recover from your surgery and get well.”
The angel went on to say something even more important. “Jesus is coming very soon — much sooner than most people believe. In fact, He would have come before now except for one thing. The church doesn’t have enough compassion — enough love — for other people.”
One would think Jesus might delay His coming because His followers are not obedient enough, prophecy and doctrine are not being taught enough, or the Word has not been spread far enough. Not because His followers don’t have enough love. However, Jesus told His disciples at the end of His ministry that He was giving them a new command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:34-35, NIV.
“You must love,” He said.
This directive from Jesus came right after an argument among the disciples regarding who would have first place in Jesus’ kingdom. There was no love lost between them right then; they were upset with each other. Not long afterward, Jesus told them again, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you. … This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” John 15:9, 12, NKJV.
We are told to love each other the same way the Father loves Jesus and that Jesus loves us. No reservations. No strings attached. This kind of love shows the world that Jesus loves all people. This kind of love makes people say, “See how those Christians love?” The forgiveness, patience, and self-sacrifice in Jesus’ relationship with His disciples is what He wants to see in us.
Ellen White wrote in The Desire of Ages: “Many who profess His name have lost sight of the fact that Christians are to represent Christ. Unless there is practical self-sacrifice for the good of others, in the family circle, in the neighborhood, in the church, and wherever we may be, then whatever our profession, we are not Christians,” p. 504.
When we represent Christ, we’ll speak kindly to our families and church friends as well as to those whom we do not know. We will refuse to speak, hear, or even think evil about others. However, this is possible only through Jesus. He gave the command to love while telling His disciples about the vine and the branches and about being connected to Him, the source of all power. To love like He does, we have to abide in Him. The ability to love the most unlovable comes only through the power given by the Holy Spirit. Without accepting Christ’s love and converting power, we cannot — and will not — care that the people around us are hurting and need Him.
There is no sermon, no Bible study series, no tract, and no evangelistic event that can take the place of compassion and love. Nothing else can demonstrate the possibility of a relationship with God better than a relationship with someone who truly, passionately loves God.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. … And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” 1 Corinthians 13: 1, 2, 13, NKJV.
The apostle Paul assures us in Romans 8:38-39 that we can never lose God’s love: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” NKJV.
This is the very heart of the gospel! Jesus loves us, we in turn love Him, and He gives us the desire and power to love others. The gospel hasn’t changed in the last 2,000 years. In fact, there is an increased urgency to this message in these last days of earth’s history. Christians are tasked with sharing this message with the world. Not just with sermons, tracts, or prophecy seminars, but by loving other frail humans like the Father loves Jesus.
Guest blogger: Tom Mills