BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us” (1 John 4:11-12 NLT).
Love is a very important subject in the Bible – the love of God towards man, love in marriage, love among fellow human beings, etc. In the Old Testament, they were taught to love their neighbors as themselves (Lev 19:18) which is also emphasized in the New Testament (Matt 5:43, 19:19; Mark 12:31; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; James 2:8). But Jesus took love a step further by teaching that his followers should love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34, 15:12) – that was his new commandment. In his revolutionary teachings, Jesus also taught that we should love our enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35).
To love is different from to like. To like or not like has to do with your preferences but to love is a command. The love the Bible commands believers to have is agape (Greek) which is “primarily a love of the will rather than the emotions.” This is the God-kind of love. You may not like me but the Bible says you must love me – to do otherwise is to disobey the Word of God. Why must you love others? I’ve identified ten reasons which I want to share with you below.
Ten Reasons To Love
1. God is love. If you don’t love others, you don’t know God at all. 1 John 4:8 says, “But anyone who does not love does not know God — for God is love” (NLT). If you claim you’re a child of God and God is living in you, love ought to live in you too and show in your relationship with others because God is essentially love – it’s only in judgment of sin that He manifests as a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29). John the beloved says, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1John 4:16b, NKJV).
Loving others makes you share in the nature of God. It makes you resemble God and indeed Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:2 says, “Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him” (NLT). If God is your Father, you should resemble Him – He is love. 2. God loves you so much. Because He loves you so much, you should love others. If you realize God is love and He loves you so much, you should love others. Love started first with God. God loves you so much He sent His Son to die for your sin (John 3:16). Paul wrote in Rom 1:7, “God loves you dearly, and he has called you to be his very own people” (NLT).
Jesus, the Son of God (and also God), also manifested his love for you by dying on the cross – the righteous died for the sinner. He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (NKJV). So if you’ve enjoyed such wonderful love, you should love others too notwithstanding their imperfections. You were not perfect when Jesus died for you, and even till now you aren’t perfect. “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:6-8 NLT).
3. Love is God’s command. Love is God’s command but not a new commandment (2 John 5). It’s both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. To love is not a suggestion; it’s not a piece of advice. It is a commandment, and a commandment doesn’t require debate; it requires obedience. The Bible says love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Gal 5:14; etc.) As I’ve said, Jesus raised the bar saying love your enemies (Matt 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28, 32-36).
In John 15:17, Jesus said, “I command you to love each other” (NLT). It’s a command. In fact, it is a royal command. James 2:8 says, “Yes indeed, it is good when you truly obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (NLT). You must not only love your friends; you must love your enemies!
In Jesus’ time, it was being said that one should love those who loved one and hate one’s enemies which was clearly contrary to the command of God in Lev 19:17-18; “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (NKJV). Nowhere in the Old Testament did God say love those who love you and hate your enemies. The ible says, “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you struggling beneath a heavy load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and offer to help” (Exo 23:5 NLT). Prov 24:17-18 says, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall into trouble. Don’t be happy when they stumble. For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them” (NLT). Did you see that?
The teaching “Love those who love you and hate you enemies” has no basis in the Old Testament and certainly cannot have in the New Testament. A religious sect among the Jews apparently had misinterpreted Lev 19:17-18 and their erroneous teaching appeared so widespread that Jesus had to correct it. He corrected it by teaching the people to love both friends and foes. Vengeance belongs to God, not you – repay no one evil for evil (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). He knows how best to deal with your enemies.
In fact, Jesus stated in Matt 5:20 that except your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter the kingdom of heaven, and this also includes loving your enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:43-48 NKJV). If you obey this command to love both friends and foes, you’re an obedient child of God. But if you don’t, you’re a disobedient child of God.
4. Love is a proof that you have eternal life in you. Eternal life is the life of God. He loves the sinner but hates sin. If you have eternal life, it will manifest in your love for fellow Christians in particular. You may not like certain things they do but that’s not enough not to love them. 1 John 3:14-15 says, “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them” (NLT).
Since Jesus says you should love your enemies, you must not limit love to Christian brothers and sisters; you must love all. If you’re born again, you must let the eternal life in you, the life of God, manifest as you interact with people.
Love shows compassion. The Good Samaritan never knew the man wounded by robbers but he showed compassion on him, gave him first aid treatment, took him to the hospital and paid the bill. But the priest and the Levite – religious people – who were travelling the same road and saw this man in his pool of blood just passed the other side. They were too holy to show love! (Luke 10:30-37).
5. Loving others is an expression of your love for God. 1 John 4:20-21 says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too” (NLT). God created man in His image (Gen 1:27).
Your love for God is questionable if you don’t love fellow human beings. You can’t claim to love God whom you can’t see physically when you hate human beings you can see. That will be hypocrisy, and Rom 12:9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy” (NKJV).
If you don’t love human beings you see, there is no guarantee you’ll love God if you see Him. If you see God, you may complain His legs are too long! – The Bible says He sits in His throne in heaven and the earth is His footstool (Isa 66:1). You may not love Him because of the blinding light all around Him! – The Bible says God covers Himself with light as with a garment (Psalm 104:2) and dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16). But God is perfect. No human being is perfect including you but you must love others in spite of their imperfections just as you desire others to love you even in your imperfect state.
6. Love is a seed. If you sow love, you’ll reap love. If you sow hatred, you’ll reap hatred. You can’t be sowing hate and hope to reap love. Whatever you sow that’s what you reap (Gal 6:7). And the harvest is always more than the seed sown. If you want people to love you, begin to love people. Don’t expect people to change towards you when you’ve not changed. When you change positively, everybody around you changes!
7. Love is everything. Without love, you’re nothing; love is the greatest. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor 13:1-3 NKJV). Verse 13 says, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (NKJV).
Life without love is a bankrupt life no matter the abundance of money or possessions you have. You don’t have anything if you don’t have love. How much love you show to people really reflects your spiritual maturity. If you claim you’re spiritual and you don’t love people, you’re only religious.
8. Love is the fulfillment of all the law. The apostle John says, “Love means doing what God has commanded us” (2 John 6a NLT). Love is the shortcut to fulfilling the Ten Commandments – love God and love fellow human beings. That’s what Jesus reduced the Ten Commandments to. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matt 22:37-40 NLT). The easiest way to fulfill the Ten Commandments is to love. Love God and love people. You can’t do one and leave the other – they are interwoven.
Building on this teaching of Jesus Christ, Paul said, “For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting — and any other commandment — are all summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom 13:9 NLT). Verse 10b says, “Love satisfies all of God’s requirements.” The NKJV renders it this way, “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
9. Love is good for your spiritual and physical health and general mental and emotional wellbeing. Loving God and fellow human beings has positive impact on your spiritual, physical and emotional health. Walking in love towards others helps your fellowship with God as you have no ill-feeling towards them – love overlooks wrongs; it forgives. Remember that lack of forgiveness will hinder your prayers (Mark 11:25-26; Luke 11:4; Matt 6:12).
Hatred or lack of love towards others also creates negative feelings within you including fear or expectation of retaliatory actions by others. Sometimes these expectations are imaginary but they could also be real.
10. Love will last forever. Love won’t end. Every other spiritual gift that people covet so much will cease but love shall not. “Love will last forever, but prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will all disappear” (1 Cor 13:8 NLT). Love shall continue forever therefore love is the greatest.
In fact, even now, all spiritual gifts people are blessed with must be used in love otherwise they are useless. You could be a great teacher, a mighty miracle worker, the pastor of a mega church, etc. without love you’re nothing before God. Apostle Paul said, “If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever” (1 Cor 13:2-3 NLT).
Conclusion: Love is God’s barometer for measuring your good deeds. 1 Cor 16:14 says, “And everything you do must be done with love” (NLT). Good deeds can be done without genuine love – it could be done out of selfish interest or ulterior motive. But genuine love does good deeds. God demonstrated his love for the world by sending Jesus to save the world and Jesus also demonstrated his love for the world by his sacrificial death on the cross.
Love gives – time, encouragement, visit, prayers, money, material things, etc. Show your love by your actions. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions” (NLT). Do you love according to Bible standard? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Cor 13:4-7 NLT).
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching, soul-winning church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: “0 Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me a child of God.”
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T.O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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