Jesus said a lot about loving.
"A new command I give you: 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)
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)
The world will know we belong to Jesus by our love. The greatest of all the commandments is to love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It's pretty clear that in Jesus' mind, living out love is the foundational calling for anyone who would be His follower.
Question is: what does this look like in real life? If we follow Jesus' example, loving means self-giving. Loving means serving.
Jesus modeled self-giving love when He washed the disciples' feet. The washing of feet was an expected custom for a traveler who entered a house. People walked everywhere, either barefoot or in sandals. Feet got dirty. The washing of feet was typically done by a household servant. Jesus washed the disciples' feet at the last supper. The Lord of the Universe humbled Himself and took the role of a servant.
And the zinger is what Jesus told them when He was finished: "“Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (John 13:12-15 NIV)
Then He went to the Cross and died for them. And for us. Self-giving love is lived out in serving. It is lived out in sacrifice. And it is the mandate for all who would be like Jesus.
Far too often we calculate our relationships based on what others can do for us. Far too often we are concerned with whether or not the other person is making us happy. Jesus, who deserved to be served more than any other person who ever lived, served others out of great love. And when His love fills our lives, we will do the same.
Aside from the generous giving of money to our church and to other organizations that help people, the call of Christ is the call to give generously of ourselves for others. To give time and service and caring and encouragement is to love well.
Love is not just a warm feeling toward someone. Love is acting to care for them. Love is my helping sweep the house when company is coming and Shirley has a hundred other things she wants to get done. Love is shoveling the sidewalk or driveway of a neighbor without charging for it. Love is taking a tray of sandwiches by when a coworker has had a death in the family. Love gives and love serves.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
People who live a self-giving, loving life find that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Because Jesus also said this about giving our lives away: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25 NIV) The way to finding life as God means it to be is to deny ourselves and lose our lives for Jesus. It is in giving that we find ourselves.
Here is a fitting prayer: Holy Spirit, please purge from me the selfishness that marks my sin nature, and fill me instead with the desire to love like Jesus has loved me, and to give my life away for Him and for others! For the honor of my King. Amen.