Forthright Magazine

I must love

Immediately after they left the place where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He explained that He would soon be glorified and go to a place they could not come. So, He told them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:31-35).

Peter later wrote, "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’" (1 Peter 4:8). Paul also saw it as an essential ingredient in the Christian’s service (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He concluded, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). So, at the end of the letter, Paul urged the Corinthian brethren, by saying, "Let all that you do be done with love" (16:14).

Vine says Peter’s word “fervent” means strained or stretched out. Imagine one of your children fell in a river and was floating downstream toward a waterfall. As you run down the bank, you see a limb extending out over the river. You climb out on the limb and reach down, only to discover you cannot quite reach out far enough. I believe you would stretch and strain to reach that child before it went over the precipice. That is the idea I find in Peter’s command.

Paul agreed with Peter regarding the importance of love in Christian relations (Galatians 5:13-15). The writer to early Hebrew converts pictured them running a race, like a marathon through enemy territory. They are urged to support each other and make special provision for those who are weak. Further, they are urged to be sure no bitterness arises that could cause people to be troubled and defiled (Hebrews 12:12-15). Paul similarly urged, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:1-4). John said the brother who had what another brother needed and withheld it did not have the love of God in him (1 John 3:16-19)!

Love completely exercised among brethren will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). For instance, forgiveness is one of the things Christians do because of what the Lord did on Calvary (Colossians 3:12-13). When one really loves, it will result in a readiness to forgive like Jesus displayed when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Of course, they still had to repent, but Jesus had already exhibited a willingness to forgive before they acknowledged their sins and turned away from them by putting Him on in baptism (Acts 2:22-23, 36-38).

Love "does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). It will cause brothers to go in search of the straying brother in hope of getting him to come home to God in repentance (James 5:19-20). Those who are spiritual will humbly seek to restore them and will gladly help to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). This is especially true of the shepherds who watch over the flock, which is the reason Christians ought to obey them. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

There is no doubt that love is an important element of the successful Christian’s life. It is the distinguishing characteristic which the Lord wanted his followers to display before a watching world. A true disciple will see the need to participate in it fully so both he and his brethren can complete the journey to the heavenly home!


Gary C. Hampton
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