“We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.” (1 John 3:16)
Love is one of the most misunderstood words ever written or spoken. It is loosely used and incorrectly applied to many of life’s situations.
For example, I have heard myself say something like, “I love to eat steak!” or “I love watching football!” In a way, by using “love” in this way, I am diminishing the word down to how I feel about an object or an activity. When, in fact, “love” is so much more.
Working with families for almost 20 years, I have heard husbands and wives alike say “I don’t love him (or her) anymore” or “You can’t help who you love”. This implies that love is a master over our lives telling us what to do and what not to do. This goes against God’s gift of free will. We do have a choice as to who we love and how we love.
The book of 1 John in the Bible gives us at least three ways that we will know if we love another person.
First, 1 John 3:11-12 says, “For this is the gospel message that you have heard from the beginning; that we should love one another, not like Cain who was of the evil one and brutally murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.”
Do you hold a grudge against a family member or friend? You may not go so far as to physically injure another person, but does rage fill your heart toward another? If so, the Bible goes on to say, “Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 Jn 3:15)
Second, a person knows he loves another if he is willing to lay down his life for him. 1 John 3:16 says, “We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.” Jesus Christ is our perfect example of what it means to love. He willingly gave his life and this provides us with the model to do the same to those in our lives.
However, it appears the Bible does not just mean laying down our lives unto death. In verse 17, it goes on to say God’s love cannot reside in anyone who sees someone else in need and does not have compassion on him. This is also a form of “laying down our lives” by giving of our time and resources as God leads us.
Third, the Bible teaches that only the believer in Jesus can truly love another person. “Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment. And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us.” (1 John 3:24)
When we believe in Jesus, his Spirit comes to live in us and through us to love others. This becomes the evidence of our love.
In summary, God is the one who draws each of us to him and gives the ability to choose to love. Who has the Lord brought into your life to love? Go to the Lord in prayer, believing him for his Spirit to live in and through you and then see his love freely flow.