"A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
In the common language of first century Jerusalem we find three kinds of love:
1. Love which is primarily physical or romantic; a kind of love that involves strong feelings but has short duration. This kind of love is not discussed in the New Testament.
2. Love which is based on close relationships and true affection. It is a love which lasts; as that between family members, or close friends. The word "love" having this meaning appears 21 times in the New Testament.
3. Love which is sacrificial and doesn't require reciprocation; a pure love that originates with God. Love like this does not occur naturally in the heart of man; however, it can be received from God and passed on to others. This love is freely given without reservation or restriction. The word "love" having this meaning appears 110 in the New Testament.
You can run a mental check, but I'll bet that in your normal conversation you use the word "love" in the first two ways most of the time; I know I do. We love our spouse and our kids. We say, "I love you, man" to our close friends. We just love that new restaurant or our new car. We say, "love you" as we sign off from a phone call. These are expressions of natural normal human affection - felt by believers and unbelievers alike. These are kinds of love that don't require the knowledge of God. But the interesting thing is that even in the church we are prone to use the word "love" simply to mean "affection." In fact, there are many who believe that the church's primary mission is about making friends and everybody being family. friendliness is nice and it does have a certain level of importance in the body of Christ, but there is a lot more to fulfilling Jesus' command than that! Jesus said: "As I have loved you" . . . in that same way, "you must love one another." Jesus wasn't talking about friendliness or feelings, He was talking about doing, acting and reacting in a God-pleasing way. He was talking about meeting and treating people in a way that is uniquely Christ-like.
Consider what we know about God's love:
· God's love is a sacrificial love. He gave till it hurt. He gave till the need was met. From the cross Jesus said, "It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30).
· God's love is an unconditional love. Jesus didn't come to save the lovable people who honored God and who were doing right in His sight; Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. Rom. 5:10 says: "When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son."
· God's love is an aspect of His character. It flows from His mercy and grace. His love is all about NOT giving us what we deserve and instead, GIVING us what we don't deserve, can't earn, and can never repay.
There is an old song whose chorus starts with the line: "O, to be his hand extended, reaching out to the oppressed . . ." I know that I don't and won't love people like that; not on my own anyway. The best I can possibly hope for is to be a conduit - a delivery system - for God's love.
So I must pray, and I hope you will join me in this, "God, let me be your hand reaching out."