Christian love is a difficult concept to grasp. Thankfully, it is explained in a variety of ways. Here are four expressions of Christian love:
The Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) is a parable about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was seized by robbers, “who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” A priest and a Levite came upon him but passed by on the other side. But then a Samaritan, a victim of racial prejudice, came by. He administered first aid to the man, then placed him on his beast and carried him to an inn where he could more adequately provide for his needs.
Among other things, this story teaches us to follow Jesus in loving everyone. If we fail to love someone, whether it is because of race, class, background, or whatever, we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lk. 10:27) and are as lost as the self-righteous priest and Levite.
The Golden Rule reads, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 7:12).
What we learn here is that love involves consideration. It is actively seeking what you would want in your life for others.
Paul expressed the Golden Rule in different words in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but I humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
When John wanted to define love for his readers he did so with an allusion to Jesus’ death on the cross: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9-10).
In this act we see that Christian love is God-centered—it does not condone sin; it loves man only by valuing his good as it is defined by God.
On the cross Jesus paid the full penalty of our disobedience himself, thus maintaining God’s righteous nature and saving us at the same time. As Paul put it, because of the cross God is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Jesus taught his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35).
The challenge is for us to love one another “just as” Christ loves us. That is, we are to love one another with a God-centered, sacrificial love.
This is how God wants us to be known as his disciples. Our love is our “badge of discipleship.”
Sometimes variety of expression helps our understanding. Hopefully these four expressions have given you a deeper understanding of Christian love.
Father in heaven, may we love one another as Christ has loved us. May our love be real, not just professed but lived out through every opportunity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.