As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
A gentleman, not a Christian, once asked me if I could tell him what made our faith different from the others in one sentence. I told him I didn’t need a sentence; I could do it with one word. And that word was “love”. I gave him a sentence, too. to explain it further. I am sure it is one you all know. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Descending from his throne room in heaven, his Son — our Lord Jesus — demonstrated this great love in person. How did he do this? Well, in many ways, but there are three that stand out.
One, he accepted everyone unconditionally. From the tax collector sitting at his tax booth (see Mark 2:14) to the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11), he just accepted them all — and, by inference, he accepts us all — just saying, “I love you. I love you as you are. Come to me.” He wanted them to change — make no mistake about that — he wants us to change, but he doesn’t make it a precondition to love. Look at the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. When his son returns home, filthy and smelling, he didn’t tell his son to clean up before he hugged him (see Luke 15:11-32).
Two, he forgave everyone who came to him in repentance. It didn’t matter what they did. I just spoke about the prodigal son. This dude blew up his entire inheritance in wild living, yet the father took him back without a word of rebuke. But, for a real life example, consider Paul. This guy was a multiple murderer; he led the arrest and slaughter of innocent Christians (see Acts 8:1-3). But when he turned to Jesus, he was instantly forgiven. Now, did he live the perfect life after that? As he himself has admitted, he failed several times, but God’s forgiveness was always forthcoming (see Philippians 3:12-15).
And, three, he died for us. And that really blows my mind. Paul writes about how “Christ died for the ungodly. Rarely will anyone die for anyone else, although a few might dare to die for a good person — but God proves his love for us in that Christ died for us while we still were sinners ” (Romans 5:6-8 PAR). I think we sometimes don’t get it, so picture this. Imagine you keep hurting someone over and over again, and then one day you find yourself drowning in a river. This guy you hurt jumps in and saves you while he goes to his death himself. That’s kinda like what Christ did for us.
So, do you get how much he loves you? Because this is personal; he did this for you. I normally speak in the first person plural, but this time I am deliberately saying, “you”, because this is about you. As I have heard it often said, Jesus would have done what he did even if you were the only person on the earth. Now, why all this talk about how Jesus loves us? Because he wants us to love everybody else like he did us. Which, in a nutshell, means we accept everybody unconditionally, we forgive everybody constantly, and we be willing to die for everybody, gladly.
And, before you say this is too hard. He did all this for us, no? So, why can’t we do it for others?