I wonder if we really understand the implications of Jesus’ command that we love one another.
One of the clear implications is that love is not merely a feeling but a choice.
No one can command a feeling, not even God himself. If I were to tell you, for example, “Get angry at me,” you’d have a tough time doing so unless I hit you a few times, because anger is a feeling. It comes out based on the circumstances around us.
Neither could you tell a person who is depressed, “Be happy!” and have them respond in a truly happy manner within seconds. Happiness too is a feeling that is based on our circumstances.
Yet Jesus commands us to love. If love were merely a soupy feeling, Jesus could not command us to love. Our love would be based instead on the kind of relationship we had with the people around us. If our relationship were good, we’d love them. If it were bad, we wouldn’t.
So what is love? It is to place high value on people, and to treat them that way. Jesus tells us the ultimate expression of that kind of love when he said,
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (13)
In other words, ultimate love is when we value the lives of others even more than our own lives.
It is, in fact, the kind of love Jesus showed us. He valued us so highly, that he left his rightful place in heaven to come to this earth and die in our place. He loved us so much that he took the punishment for our sins that we deserved.
And so Jesus tells us that just as he valued us, we are to value others. We are to value others so highly, that we are willing to sacrifice our lives for theirs.
“But that’s impossible,” you say. “You don’t know the kinds of people I have to deal with every day! I’m supposed to sacrifice myself for their sake? To value them more highly than myself?”
Yes. And that takes a total change of heart. The kind of change that only comes when you’re connected to the Vine. As you receive love from God, and as you understand just how highly God values you despite your weaknesses and despite your failures, it then gives you the ability to value those around you despite their weaknesses and failures. Until you truly understand this, however, it’ll be tough to show the kind of love that God does.
Are there people that you struggle to love? I know some people I struggle to love. But love is not a mere feeling. It is a choice. A choice that we can only make when we truly understand God’s love for us. So let us draw near to God and root ourselves in his love. And as his love flows in us, we will bear the fruit of love that God desires of us, and that this world is desperately searching for.