Love One Another
When I was a kid, I watched the “Love Boat.” It was a silly show, but I was foolish enough to think going on a cruise would be great. Actually, my wife and I went on a four day cruise for our 20th Anniversary and when we blinked the cruise was over. It really was a great time. To celebrate an anniversary, a cruise is a great thing. The reality is the cruise was all about us and is not how the church should be.
The church is about loving others. The church does not exist for itself. It exists as the Body of Christ to reach the world around it. The Church is designed to be a hospital as Paul writes, “But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:24-25)
Yet, the Church is also a training ground for equipping believers to do the work of ministry. Paul writes,
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Eph 4:11-13)
Saints need to be equipped to do the work of ministry.
As the church is equipped, it will disciple people to become disciple-makers for Jesus. Paul gives this mandate in Matthew 28:19-20,
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20)
As we make disciples we will reveal our love for one another as Jesus exhorts,
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
This brings us back to love. We are to love one another. The question is what does that mean?
There are four words for love in the original language of the New Testament times. Two of the words are in the New Testament, one is found as a compound word and one is only found in secular literature.
The first word for love is agapao, which means an unconditional love that depends on the integrity of the subject which loves, not on the object. It is used of God who “loved” the world. There was nothing of divine value in the world to love when it was in its fallen state. Yet, because of the integrity, perfect character of God, He chose to love the world by sending Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the world. This is the kind of love that gives when there is no desire or affinity to give. This love gives because it is the godly action, when the human response would be to avoid the object.
The second word for love is phileo, which means there is a reason for acting in love or an affinity to love. It’s the love a young man has toward a young woman when they want to be with each other. The object of the love is attractive, pleasant, intelligent, funny, talented or possesses some other quality that gives reason for expressing the love.
The third word for love is found only in a compound form storge, which is used of a familial type love. It is found as philostorge i n Romans 12:10 and is translated “brotherly love.”
The fourth word, which is not found in the New Testament, is eros and refers to a physical love. It is the physical relationship between a man and a woman in marriage and also used in all the aberrant forms of ungodliness.
The reason why this understanding is so important is because of the “one another” passages. There are 13 passages which contain “love one another.” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11,12; 2 John 1:5) The fact that it is found thirteen times means it must be very important. But the word used is also very important.
We might look at “love one another” as something we know we are supposed to do and so we will be loving toward our family or those we get along with in church. However, that would be the second word, phileo, those whom we have an affinity with or reason to love. That is not the word in any of the “love one another” passages. That would be easier, but it would likely also depend on us rather than on the Lord.
The word used in every “love one another” is agapao. That means the Lord is calling us to love one another, not because we like the person or have reason to love them, but just the opposite. If you do like the person or have reason to love them, by all means keep on loving them! However, because agapao is used, the command to “love one another”means to love those who may not be so lovely (John 3:16). It means to love those you don’t know (Heb. 13:1-2). It means to love those you don’t always hang around with or necessarily get along with (1 John 3:15-23). It means you will even confront at appropriate times (Heb. 12:5-6). It means the world will know that we are His disciples, because loving each other, even in differences, is more important, than being served (John 13:34-35). Can you imagine how this would affect the world?
If we are going to be biblical, we will step out of our comfort zones and love one another in ways that the human race would not be able to explain. Don’t wait. Choose to act by the power of the Holy Spirit.