Commanded to Love Differently
Shouldn’t loving others be something we do because we want to? After all, if we have to be told to do it, is it really love?
But Jesus did not tell His followers to love when they felt like it. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).
People had been loving each other for thousands of years before Jesus’s earthly ministry. So what’s so new and special about this command? Special enough that it would convince a watching world that those who are obedient are disciples of Jesus Christ?
It all boils down to the type of love we’re referring to. Eros is a physical love that’s selfish and conditional. It communicates, “I love you as long as you continue to please me.” Phileo is to love with a brotherly love. Phileo communicates, “I love you because we have something in common.” Because brotherly love involves mutual interest, it’s also a conditional love.
A Different Kind of Love
But when Jesus commanded us to love, the Greek word used in this verse is neither of those types. Jesus spoke of loving others the way God loves—with agape. A love that says, “I love you, not because of who you are, but because of who I am.” God loves us because of who He is, not because we have done anything to be worthy of His love. When we love others with agape, we are saying, “I love you, not because of what you can do for me, but because God’s love flows through me to you.”
We cannot manufacture this love on our own. It flows from complete obedience to the Holy Spirit in us. This is an intentional choice of the will, regardless of natural feelings. And it flows from obedience to Jesus’s command to His followers, then and now.
The apostle Paul described agape in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. He said agape is patient and kind. It is not jealous, bragging, or arrogant. Agape is not easily provoked and does not keep a record of wrongs. It rejoices with the truth and endures all things. Loving with agape is all about wanting God’s highest and best for the other person.
We need love in all our relationships, but Christians are commanded to love differently. May we be vessels through which God’s love flows, showing the world that we are, indeed, disciples of Jesus Christ.