One of the most important and most frequently repeated commands in Scripture is the command to us to love one another.
When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He answered with two vitally important commandments: “‘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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Following His final meal with His disciples, Jesus said to them, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). A bit later in the evening He repeated it: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Then He repeated it again: “This is My command: Love each other.”
In John’s first letter, he writes, “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us” (1 John 3:23). Later he adds, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).
Paul concludes 1 Corinthians 13 by stressing, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Scripture commands us to love one another…but it doesn’t seem to come naturally to me. I don’t know about you, but I know that for me the command to “love one another” continues to be a life-long struggle.
I am all too familiar with my own fears, resentments, grudges, stubbornness, misconceptions, prejudices, and selfish attitudes that get in the way of loving others as God calls me to do. Over and over again, I find myself confessing to God my need for His help in this regard. I find myself asking Him to help me to see others with His eyes, to feel for others with His compassion, and to love others with His heart, for my own eyes are not clear enough, and my compassion is not deep enough, and my heart is not true enough.
Someone once wrote, “Coping with difficult people is always a problem, especially if the difficult person happens to be yourself!” Since the most difficult person I generally have to deal with turns out to be myself, I have to keep turning to God and asking Him to help me deal rightly with this difficult person so that I can then love others.
As God helps me to get that straightened out, I turn next to the advice of Billy Graham: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I ask God to help me to leave the judging and the convicting up to Him, and to help me to do the job that is mine: loving the person who is before me.
Then I try to apply the counsel of Ruth Haley Barton who writes, “In every decision we make we could hope that somewhere along the way someone will ask, ‘What does love call us to?’” In my dealings with others I try to take that question to heart: “What does love call me to in this situation?”
I hope you will join me in this life-long struggle to try to heed God’s command to us to love one another.
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org