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What did Jesus mean when he said that we were to love one another?
“Jesus said, ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’” John 13:34-35 KJV.
Let’s explore what this means.
In Part 1 of this article, we discovered that whoever needs our help, who we have the ability of helping is our neighbor. We also learned that we have an obligation and responsibility to do what we can for others, whoever and whenever we can help. We are held accountable to God not only for the wrong things that we have thought, said or done in this life, but also for the neglect of others. Everyone in this world could literally be our neighbor, if we would think outside of the box and ask God for more ways to help them, not just the ones we have come in contact with in this life. God doesn’t compel anyone, but if His love is not in your heart you won’t see the need or have the ability of helping others. And those who have done nothing to help others, will eventually be shut out of the Kingdom of Heaven if they haven’t repented, and will be cast into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels. This is what Jesus said, this is not our words. And those who have been helping others, even if they did not know they were doing it for Jesus, were doing it unto Him. And Jesus will invite them to go with Him to Heaven, with its everlasting love and endless delight, because what they did to help others, was done unto Him, as if He was the one they did it to. They may not even have known that they were doing it unto Him, because it was in their heart to do it, and they didn’t give it a second thought, but they were! Jesus takes all wrong acts of unkindness and neglect done to others as if they were done to Him personally, and all acts of kindness and love done to others, as if they were done to Him personally.
The question what did Christ mean when He said that we were to love one another, does it mean that we are to love only the brethren of our Church? Or does it mean something more? Does it mean the same thing as God’s commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves? We shall see.
As you can see the answer to this question and its sub-questions are more complex.
Whatever conclusion we come up with cannot contradict what we have already learned from our previous article, Part 1, where we learned that our neighbor is not just someone who is of our faith, or even of our same Christian denomination, because Jesus proved this idea to be wrong, as we conclude from the answer to His question given by the “doctor of the law,” the Jewish lawyer: “The one who showed mercy toward him." Luke 10:36. “The one who showed mercy toward him” was a foreigner, a Samaritan, and thus not of the same faith as the Jews, who were much despised by them! From this we conclude that if we are to obey Jesus and His Father, we must love those outside of our faith, including those who are not even Christian. Because of what we know about Jesus and His Father, we conclude therefore that our neighbor is the whole world, whether they are Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Pagan, or even an Atheist! Is anyone left out from this list? No, all are our neighbor. Our neighbor is whoever we have the ability of helping that needs our help, without reference to race, religion, creed, etc. because God is no respecter of persons. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.’” Acts 10:34-35 KJV.
There is evidence in the scriptures that there should be a special place in our heart for the brethren. Do a search for the word ‘brethren’ in a computer Bible or on an Internet Bible site and see what it comes up with, if you want to know more of this. They are too numerous to mention here. But here are a few references for you to check out if you wish: Greet the brethren: Romans 16:3, 5-6, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 16:19-21; 2 Corinthians 13:12-13; Philippians 4:21-22; Collisions 4:14, 15, 18; 1 Timothy 5:26; 2 Timothy 3:17; 4:19-21; Philemon 1:23; Hebrews 13:24; James 1:1; 1 Peter 5:15; 2 John 1:13; 3 John 1:14. There is a work for us to do within the church, for the widows, the orphans, etc. 1 Timothy 5:3-20. James 1:27. We are not to take believers to a court of law before unbelievers, because it brings dishonor to God. 1 Corinthians 6:1-6.
To begin our discovery of what the answer to this question is, let us start here:
The apostle John declares that “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:14-18 NASB.
Again John says, “We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4:19-21 NASB.
So another question that can be asked is: Who is my brother? Is it someone from your faith or Christian denomination? Or is it someone who is a Christian? This seems to be indicated, but we believe it also has a deeper meaning, and includes all who might become a Christian at a later date, whether they are now or not. In the end your brother can be the same thing as your neighbor. Since we don’t know who will accept God’s invitation to be saved or not, we need to treat everyone as if they would eventually be saved. This is impossible to do without God’s help, so we must pray for His help to do it.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11 NASB.
Who are we to love? According to John, ‘the one who does not love does not know God.’ So we had better get to know God, so that we can love others. Even though the first part of this text is saying that we should love ‘one another’, verse 8 doesn’t seem to limit it to just ‘one another’ or just ‘the brethren.’ I.e. our love should not be limited just to those who go to our Church denomination. There is no doubt that we are to love the brethren of our Church, which is probably John’s main point. But what about all those who are not currently a part of God’s Church? If they can be brought into the fold of the true Shepherd and give themselves to God, they would become our brethren too, would they not? So is John really excluding all non-Church members here or all non-Christians, or those who are not members of your Church denomination here? We think not. John clearly states here that the one who does not love does not know God. And God does not love just those who are believers in Jesus, but the whole world, and desires all to accept His offer of eternal life – He is not willing that any should perish! 2 Peter 3:9. See also John 3:16-17.
We need to know the answer to this question, whether we should limit our love just to the brethren in our Church, or should our love be more than this? Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:34-35 KJV. The answer to this question is VERY important, because Jesus stated that this would be how people would know if we are His disciple or not! Those who don’t’ ‘love one another’ are not His disciple! We want to make sure that we are on the right side of this, because we want to be Jesus’ disciple.
Jesus clears up the answer to our question here with this statement:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36 NASB. See also Matthew 5:43-48.
We see from what Jesus’ said above, that those who we love should not be just those who love us back, or treat us kindly and fairly. Since we should be able to expect those who are Christian to treat us with kindness and love, based on Jesus’ command to love one another, His statement here in Luke 6 seems to indicate that if we love others who don’t love us, like He asked us to do, that this also includes non-Christians and people who are not of our faith. Did you catch that? Jesus statement here in Luke 6 seems to indicate that we should love those who are not even a Christian yet, or not of our faith.
From Jesus’ command that we are to ‘love our enemies’, we conclude that there must be a larger group of people than those who are of our Christian denomination, or even of those who are Christian, that we are to love. Because a Christian’s enemies can most certainly come from those whose beliefs are hostile against Christianity, which includes a large group of people in this world. So clearly the non-Christian is included in who we are supposed to love, by Jesus’ statement above.
So when Jesus said that we were to love one another, does this not also mean that we are to love those who are not a Christian or of our particular faith yet? Yes, we think this is clear.
Jesus’ statement above in Luke 6:32 also tells us that we are to love those who persecute us, and to be meek and humble with those who would make demands of us. And we are to do good to those who need our help, especially to those who can’t pay us back or help us back. Jesus also stated that persecution could come out of your own household or your Church when He said, “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” John 16:2 NASB. This indicates that persecution can arise out of your own faith! What could be clearer than this? Jesus further declared: “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53 NASB. What is Jesus talking about here? Not everyone loves Him and His Father supremely, some become embittered against the truth when their sins and defects are made plain, and will not bear patiently when someone, even in their own family, takes their stand for Jesus and wants to love and obey Him all the way, it makes them look bad! So this is the cause of some of the persecution that can happen. Who were the people that Jesus was talking to in John 16:2 above? They were all Jews. The first Christians were all Jews, but they learned new truths that were not accepted by all Jews, so this produced persecution. Probably the majority of the Jews didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, because He pointed out their sins. And the first Jewish Christians were forced out of meeting with the other Jews in the synagogues at one point. Jewish Christians were literally cast out of their Synagogues!
But something similar to this also happened to true Christians during the Middle Ages, during the great persecution that occurred there, where they were persecuted for believing the truth, which went against what the established Church was teaching. And unfortunately this also happened here in the United States, before we were a nation from some Christian denominations towards others who didn’t believe exactly as they did, and it has happened after we were a nation too. We don’t want to go there in this article, but you probably get our point now, don’t you? The fact that someone is a member of your Christian denomination doesn’t mean that they love you, and will not try to persecute you if you stand up for your beliefs that God is teaching you, it may come to a point where they will cast you out of their ‘synagogues’ too. And we can most certainly be persecuted by those who are not Christian at all, who are antagonistic against Christianity, because they know not the love of Jesus and His Father for the human race. Yes, there is a cross that we all must bear if we wish to be Jesus’ disciple. But this is not the main point of our article. But Jesus said that we are to love one another, that we were to also love those who persecute us, who are trying to make our life miserable. We are to love even those who are trying to steal our sweet Christian peace, love and joy and our Crown of life that Jesus and His Father want to give us. Those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will war against Him. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:12-19 KJV.
In Matthew 5 Jesus says that ‘if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?’ Matthew 5:47 NASB. Jesus makes it clear here that we are to love not just our brethren or the Christians who believe as we do, but He also enjoins us to love non-Christians as well.
Jesus gives the reason we are to love our enemies and pray for them: ‘so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45 NASB. Jesus makes it clear that God sends the rain and blessings on both the righteous and the wicked, and that we are to be like our Heavenly Father and love everyone, not just those who love us back, but even love those who persecute us. If we want to be sons of our Heavenly Father in Heaven, we must love others like He does. And not just love the ‘brothers’ of our own denominational faith and not just those who are Christians. Because Jesus said that we are to love our enemies, His command to love one another also means that we are to love those who are not even Christian yet. We need to let God’s sweet Spirit fill our heart with His love and not be partial to any, but do our best to help others, sharing His love with them whether they can help us back or repay us or not. Because God is kind to the unkind, unloving and undeserving, so should we.
We are not suggesting here that we can walk together with unbelievers in sweet accord, or to those who don’t believe exactly like we do, but that we are to still love everyone. The prophet Amos declared: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3 KJV. The apostle Paul says, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 KJV.
Is there anyone that we should not love? No. We are to love those who love us of course, but we are also to love those who don’t love us, if we would be Jesus’ disciple. But there is a special love we should have for the brethren who believe like we do, all those who love Jesus like we do, who have the same kind of faith as ours. Peter makes this clear when he writes: “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1:1-4 NASB. Here Peter says that he is greeting all who have the same kind of faith as he had. What was that same kind of faith that Peter had? He declares that it is the faith in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. And Peter blesses those who have the same kind of faith as he had with this special blessing: ‘grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’. Dear reader, we hope that you have the same kind of faith that Peter had, in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is mighty to save, and His Father more so. For no one is able to snatch you out of His or His Father’s hands!
Jesus declared: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” John 10:27-29 NASB.
Do you believe this dear reader? Do you love Jesus and believe that no one can snatch you out of His hand, or out of His Father’s hand who is greater than He? It’s true! Just believe it! You are the only one who can take yourself out of God’s hand. If you believe that God can save you, and that no one can snatch you out of His hand, then you have the same kind of faith as Peter had! It’s a simple as that!
So yes, there is a special greeting that we can give only to those who have the same kind of faith that Peter and the apostles had. We can only share this kind of comradery with those who are of a like mind, who in a like manner love Jesus as we do.
But unfortunately not all of ‘the brethren’, who call
themselves ‘Christian’, have the same kind of faith that
Peter and the other Apostles of the New Testament had.
This is, to use a cliché, a crying shame, literally! All who name themselves Christians should have the same kind of faith that Peter and the Apostles had! It is not God’s fault that they have this lack! He is not to be charged with this. It is their own fault for not taking advantage of the many precious promises that God has given us for a new life with Him. Or this could be due to ignorance or to false teachers and false professors of the Christian faith. Or this could be due to those who are well meaning, but are teaching a faulty or incomplete understanding of the truth, failing to explain the truth of God’s many precious promises that we may become partakers of His divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.
There is a great lack of faith and unbelief in the promises of God, manifested today by many Christians, with the lack of the true knowledge of how to be saved, or of their great need to be born again (John 3:3, 5), or else there would be more born again Christians, and this world would be a better place. Yes we know that there are many who claim to be born again, and some of whom have stickers on their cars or signs outside of their houses or businesses saying, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ But if we go by the Bible standard of being born again, that we love one another and love our neighbor as ourselves, that we should have the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and in many other texts in the New Testament, their life comes up short of the mark. But the final chapter in their life hasn’t been written yet, and God will make the decision whether they merit His grace or not, or whether they are weighed in the balances and found wanting. Daniel 5:27.
Many Christians do not believe the plain reading of the Bible, where Jesus states that we are to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which He infers is the same thing as the Law or the 10 Commandments, and is the main teaching of the Law and the Prophets, which is a term that refers literally to the whole Old Testament, and by extension to all of the New Testament as well. They think that His Law of Love or the Old Testament are done away with, superseded by the Gospel of Grace or the New Covenant, not realizing that Jesus’ command to love one another, and to love God are one and the same as the 10 Commandments of Exodus 20 of the Old Testament, and that God has always been about Grace and Love, even in the Old Testament! But Jesus breathed new life into these commands, and showed us more fully what they mean, and gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to keep them, if we are born again. John 3:3 5. Consider well Jesus’ statement here in regard to this: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:40 KJV. This is in reference to the command of God to love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This proves to everyone who believes in Jesus, that the commandment to love our God with all our heart, and all our mind and all our soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, is the whole purpose and reason for the Old Testament, and even the whole New Testament as well! We don’t want to go into the proofs here regarding all of these assertions that we are making here – we have already covered them in other articles and in several of our books. We cite this here as an aid to the understanding of the question: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ and what Jesus meant when He said that we are ‘to love one another.’ It is not the hearers, but the doers of the Law of Love who will be right in God’s sight. Romans 2:13. But all those who love God will be wanting to keep His divine injunction and ask Him for the help to do it.
From all of this we conclude that not all who name themselves Christians have the same kind of faith as ours, or the same kind of faith that Peter and the Apostles had, i.e. the same kind of faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and His Father, and of their ability of making us righteous too. So when Jesus says that we are to love one another, this would have to be a broader scope than our own Christian denomination or faith, because more than likely not all of those of your Christian denomination, if you are a Christian, have the same kind of faith that Peter had, or believe the plain reading of the Bible or believe the plain words and commands of Jesus. Sad but true. We are saved as individuals, not as a group of people. Church membership is not a membership into the club of the saved. We are not saying here that we shouldn’t have brotherly love towards those who are of our same Christian denomination, who may not have the same kind of faith that Peter and the other Apostles had, because we are to ‘love one another’ as Jesus loved us. But the fact is that all don’t have the same kind of faith that Peter and the other Apostles had. So we cannot have the same comradery with those who don’t believe as we do. Draw your own conclusions. It takes more than a mere profession of faith to have the same kind of faith that Peter and the other Apostles had.
Conclusion of What did Jesus mean when He commanded us to love one another?
We conclude therefore, that even though there is a special comradery among those who have the same kind of faith that we have, Jesus’ command to love one another goes way beyond the membership of our particular Church faith, and even beyond to all people who are Christian. It should also include those who could be our brothers or sisters, but are not yet; we should do all that we can to help them love Jesus too. We also conclude that Jesus’ command to love one another, is the same thing as or similar to God’s command that we love our neighbor as ourselves. And to reiterate what we discovered in our previous lesson, part 1, our neighbor is whoever needs our help, and is literally anyone in the world that we have the power and the ability of helping. Those who go into the kingdom of Heaven with Jesus at His second coming, are those who have loved their neighbor as themselves, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited those who were sick and in prison and shared the gospel of Jesus and His Father’s love with them.
Dear reader, we hope that you can see the necessity of loving your neighbor as yourself, and loving one another, including those who are not of your faith yet, or not even Christian yet. This is what Jesus wants you to do. If you want to be pleasing in His site, ask Him how you can best serve Him and help others. Pray for a fitness to serve Him with a pure, new heart, filled with love for Him and others, the ones whom Christ died for. Don’t hold yourself back from this precious joy of showing others His love or helping them in their needs. You will never regret it, we promise you! If you will allow God to help you to help others in their needs, be it physical or spiritual needs, then you will be greatly blessed. Then your life will be a pleasing aroma to God. God wants His children to reproduce His character of love. This is part of the reward of Heaven, it is love, pure and simple. If you have been given love, you cannot help but want to share it with others, or your springs of joy will dry up. Everyone who names the name of Christ should be happy they have been loved and forgiven by God - this should produce in them the strongest inducement for them to want to serve Him. Freely you have received from Him, freely give from your storehouse of resources, time and means to help others, for your God whom you love.
May the grace of God be with you, dear reader, as you ask for help from God to love your neighbor as yourself, and for His help to ‘love one another’ as Jesus loved you. Amen.
This article is an answer to a question posed by one of the readers of our White Raiment Evangelism Blogs and some of our books.
If you have not read our previous article, Who is My Neighbor? Part 1
, we recommend that you read it, because we didn't want to cover all of it again here, but to find the answer to this second question, and put it all together for you.
By John Foll, written between 02/05/2018 to 02/11/2018, and finished on 03/3/2018.
© Copyright 2018 John Foll
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