How do we love?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

That verse is in 1 John 3:16 Isn’t this interesting? John 3:16 talks about God giving up His son because He loved the world. 1 John 3:16 takes the next step—now we’re to love each other in the same way, laying down our lives for others just as Jesus did.

This is the command Jesus gives to all who say they love Him and live in Him: We must love like He does.

So, I’m asking … what does giving up our lives for each other mean? I don’t think it means physically dying in another person’s place. Maybe it means letting my own dreams and desires die for the sake of another soul. My selfishness is squelched so that I can treat another person as Christ would treat him. I give up some of my comfort for the sake of another. The “I” in me dies, so that another soul will live.

Oh. That’s tough. I am so … human.

Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Yes, Lord, we hear your command, but what you ask is really, really hard.

But Jesus doesn’t give us time to object or whine. Because the next verse immediately says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.”   (John 14:15-16)

Ah, yes. Jesus knows exactly how difficult it will be for me — human me — to obey His command to love others. And so He promised the Counselor, the Spirit, the one who leads me into truth. The Spirit of Christ himself dwells within, to help me live the way He wants me to live.

Romans 5:5 says that God gave us the Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Some versions say our hearts are flooded with God’s love, or it is poured into our hearts, or shed abroad. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love, and it can come pouring into us, flooding through our hearts.

Wow. I admit, that’s what I need. A flood of something beyond myself. That’s the only way I can love the way Jesus loved me.

It’s difficult enough to give up my selfishness for the sake of someone I claim to “love” in my human way. But Jesus also asks us to love our enemies, to love those who hate us, to love those who are in need (and what greater need is there than the need for God?) That’s the way Jesus loved. He prayed God would forgive those who killed Him. He gave up His life, not just for the handful who followed Him for a few years on earth, but for people who mock Him in 2011.

How do we love like that? How do we love, when our human nature would rather hate and condemn and avoid?

The Spirit sheds abroad, pours out, floods …


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