By Allen White
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
What does it mean to love completely? I don’t know if many people have actually experienced it. Who are those people that no matter what we’ve done will always accept us? They may not agree with us or like what we’ve done, but there’s something about their love that those disagreements don’t seem to get in the way of it.
Our families would be a likely place to experience unconditional love. At least, so it would seem. For some, a family gathering is a warm reassurance that they’re fully loved and fully accepted. Nothing will cause their families to turn away. For others, a family gathering is a test of their endurance. How much can they take? When do they get to leave? Yet for some, family is such a painful and distant idea that they just don’t want to go there physically or emotionally.
Some of us will look back on our childhood and realize that our parents did the best they could based on what they had and what they had been given by their family. Others detest that idea simply because their parents didn’t do the best they could. For some, their parents did the worst they could. That’s a very painful thing.
People tend to let us down. Most people have been disappointed by the prospects of love in some way. Even a glimpse at perfect love brings about feelings of disappointment and discouragement. Unconditional love seems unattainable.
Yet, Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another. Not just when they felt like it as in the case of eros. Eros is passionate or sensual love. While the New Testament writers don’t use this word, the idea is a love for the worthy. It’s a love with a desire to possess. We can find the idea of eros in the book of Proverbs: as something that “is never satisfied” (Proverbs 30:16) and “let's enjoy ourselves with love!” (Proverbs 7:18).
Another Greek expression of love is philos or brother love, thus Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love.” The disciples were indeed brothers. This type of love seems to fit. But, you can also “philos” wisdom (sophia) and end up in philosophy. It’s a liking kind of love.
Jesus instructs His disciples to “love one another [unconditionally].” This is Agape, unconditional love.
Agape love has no if/then statements. If you do _____, then I will love you. Agape love says, “I will love you always and no matter what.” No conditions. No expectations. No limits.
Agape love is not a human invention. Unconditional love is supernatural. Jesus told the disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The disciples could give unconditional love, because they had received this love from God Himself.
The proof of unconditional love is “by this all men will know that you are my disciples.” Caution: Potential Legalism Alert. Don’t take this as “If you want to be Jesus’ disciple then you must put up with everybody else’s, uh, stuff, accept them as they are, and just love them anyway. If you don’t, you’re out of the club.”
Love doesn’t mean that we put up with everyone’s bad behavior. Sometimes the loving thing is to sit down with someone and say, “I noticed _______ the other day, this seemed out of character for you, what’s going on? I love you too much to just let this go.” That’s not an easy conversation to have. Often we avoid such conversations because we “don’t want to hurt their feelings.” The reality is that we don’t want to be uncomfortable. Interpretation: We love ourselves more than we love the other person.
How does God love us? Think about how patient God is with us. Think about how God is always there for us. Think about God’s grace and how He forgives. Think about how God understands and cares.
Now, how do we allow God’s love to course through our veins? How do we offer unconditional love to others? Knowing that we might be hurt, we might be rejected, and we might be taken advantage of, how can we love the others around us always, forever and no matter what?
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