Jesus taught us, as His disciples, to love one another (Jn. 13:34-35). His instruction in that context is not a suggestion. He stated it as a commandment. The purpose behind this commandment is extremely important. The world will recognize Christ in us by the love that we exhibit toward one another. But the reasons that should motivate our love for one another go way beyond just following a commandment that tells us to love one another.
As Christians we are family, God’s family! When we become a Christian, God adopts us into His family as His son or daughter (Gal. 4:4-5). Thus, each Christian is the brother or sister of every other Christian. As brothers and sisters we cannot rightfully hate one another (1 Jn. 2:9-10). So serious is the bond of love that should exist between Christians that John may suggest that for a Christian to not love his brother may actually make him guilty of hating him (1Jn. 3:10-15). It is difficult to love simply on command, but it is natural to love one’s family.
A Christian also ought to love his brothers and sisters in Christ precisely because he is “in Christ.” When a person is scripturally baptized, he is baptized “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3). He has “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). In becoming a Christian, Paul speaks of surrendering one’s life to the Savior (Gal. 2:20). He exhorts the Christian to share in the mind of Christ (Phlp. 2:5). Paul gives that instruction within a context of scripture that talks about the loving sacrifice that Christ made in leaving Heaven and going to the cross for mankind. If God and Christ could love man that much while he was still lost in sin (Rom. 5:8), then a Christian certainly ought to love his brothers and sisters in Christ. Doing so is a natural characteristic of being “in Christ.”
David gave us a wonderful example of another reason why we, as Christians, ought to love one another. When King Saul unjustly hounded David, continually attempting to hunt him down and kill him in a jealous rage, David would not raise his hand against the King. More than once David could have killed Saul in his sleep and been rid of him. Saul was wicked in seeking to kill David, but David would not strike Saul. At one point David cut off a piece of Saul’s garment while he slept, just to demonstrate to Saul that he had been at David’s mercy, yet David did him no harm. Afterward, David felt great shame that he had done even that much. It was not that Saul deserved David’s respect because of his own righteousness, for he was not righteous in what he was seeking to do. David could not hate Saul, and he would not raise a hand against him, because Saul was the Lord’s anointed as king of Israel. As Christians, we are, at least in a sense, God’s anointed (1 Jn. 2:20, 27). In Christ we are also kings and priests (Rev. 1:6). We ought to love our fellow Christians because of their relationship to God. We should not strike out against God’s anointed, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
To love our fellow Christians is a serious matter. It is a matter that deserves great thought, reflection and understanding. To love each other is not just a matter of commandment. It is, much more, a matter of who we are and who they are. God’s family, in Christ, God’s anointed...
Gary L. Hutchens