This “one another” Christianity is a key theme in the New Testament. A quick search of the New King James version shows this theme appearing nearly sixty times in the New Testament. Long ago, Cain asked the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9), and the rest of the Bible (especially the New Testament) answers with a resounding, “Yes!” Christians have certain duties and responsibilities toward one another. One of the first and foremost responsibilities Christians have is to love one another, and that is the subject of this particular article.
Jesus was once asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). There is no indication in the text that Jesus hesitated to answer, as He replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). On the night of His betrayal, Jesus told His apostles, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35). As Jesus further instructed His apostles, He told them, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and again, “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17). Can there be any doubt that it is Jesus’ will for His followers to love one another?
After Jesus ascended back into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth (as He promised them, John 16:13), the inspired New Testament writers often commanded Christians to love one another. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the writings of the apostle John. Through John, the Holy Spirit says Christians who do not love their brethren in the Lord are “not of God” (1 John 3:10,11). A few verses later, the Spirit says through John, “He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14,15). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit connects Christians’ love for one another with belief in Jesus (1 John 3:23); it is that important! In fact, John continues in chapter 4, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Continuing this thought after speaking of God’s great love for us, John adds, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:11,12). If God’s love is to abide in a Christian, he must love his brothers and sisters in the Lord. Concluding 1 John 4, Christians are further told that if one says he loves God but hates his brethren in the Lord, he is a liar, “for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20)? In the very next verse, John states simply, “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). That word “must” makes Christians’ love for one another mandatory; this is not an optional matter!
Time and space do not permit discussion of every single passage instructing Christians to love one another, but suffice it to say that Paul instructs Christians to love one another (Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Corinthians 12:25; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9), as does Peter (1 Peter 1:22; 3:8; 4:8). While it is a fact that some people are easier or harder to love than others, it is also a fact that the agape love described in the New Testament is always a choice one makes to love others and to seek their best interests. Biblical love is not selfish, period; it “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
From the Old Testament and the beginning of time to the book of Revelation and its picture of the eternal reward for God’s faithful, love is the theme of the Bible. God’s great love for mankind is seen in His provision of a means of salvation for mankind, even from the moment sin entered the world (Genesis 3:1-15). God’s love is seen time and time again in the Old Testament, as sinful people still received grace and opportunities to turn back to the God of heaven. And, when people turned to God and obeyed Him, He graciously forgave them and blessed them. When Jesus came to this earth to die for sinful mankind, such was the great demonstration of God’s amazing love (Romans 5:8). When men and women truly love God, they will strive diligently to obey Him (John 14:15), and they will also make a conscious decision to love one another. For the best life — now and in eternity — there simply is no other way.
Adapted from Chad Dollahite