One of the most fundamental truths of the Christian religion is summed up by what Jesus said to His disciples the night of His betrayal. He told them He was going to leave and that they could not follow and the thought of being left alone terrified them. He told them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35.
They were about to witness the depth of that love they were commanded to have toward each other. In less than 24 hours they would see Jesus scourged and crucified. While the soldiers drove the nails through His hands and feet they would hear Him say, over and over again, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34.
While hanging on the cross in His agony, they would hear His words to the repentant thief: “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Verse 43. After witnessing those scenes, in 36 hours they would see Jesus again, risen from the dead. Then they would understand why He endured the suffering—because He loved them and wanted them to be with Him for eternity. Before the events of that weekend were over, the disciples would clearly understand God’s love and the depth to which He would stoop to save lost man. When this same love is exhibited towards their brethren, those who belong to Jesus will be clearly identified.
Several texts in the New Testament urge the importance of this subject. Paul says, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8–10.
The Bible says that angels keep faithful records of everything you say, think, and feel. You are to love your neighbor as yourself, and Paul says that love does no harm to a neighbor. A neighbor includes the people around you as well as those in your family. How is your record? How have you treated those close to you lately?
There are many people who are very inconsiderate towards the feelings of others, simply saying what they think regardless of the consequences. What they say may be the truth, but it is spoken in a way that will destroy any hope of a good relationship. Let’s think that through. If you are determined not to do any harm to your neighbor, you will try to avoid hurting their feelings. There are some times when it is necessary to bring some truth out that will cause pain. However, consider the example of Jesus, Who dealt so delicately with issues never bringing unnecessary pain to a sensitive soul.
We should study and understand the whole chapter of Romans 12. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy [without pretense]. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” Verses 9, 10. Notice that if you love your brother as you love yourself and in the way Christ loves you, several things will happen. Love does not deal in evil, but clings to what is good. Love is kind and affectionate. That means being tender with other people’s feelings.
Love gives honor. The habit that some develop of being a joker can become a cruel instrument, used at the expense of others to hurt them. The talent of speech is too precious a talent to waste telling jokes. A joke at somebody else’s expense is usually designed to embarrass them. When we love one another, we do not set out to embarrass, but “… with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”
One of the favorite texts of Ellen White was I Peter 1:22, quoting it in many contexts. “ ‘See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.’ The word of God—the truth—is the channel through which the Lord manifests His Spirit and power. Obedience to the word produces fruit of the required quality—‘unfeigned love of the brethren.’ This love is heaven-born and leads to high motives and unselfish actions.” The Acts of the Apostles, 520. A pure love gives security and will never lead a person to break the fifth or the seventh commandment.
“But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” I Thessalonians 4:9–12.
There are several interesting points in this passage of Scripture. While we should have love for all men, a special care and concern and love should be manifest toward those who are of the household of faith. That is why it is called brotherly love. Brotherly love means love for the brother, and we have brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul urges that that love should continue to “increase more and more.”
Some people think that if you have love, then you don’t need to do anything. Paul says that does not mean that you relax and do nothing. You still need to mind your business, be productive, work with your hands, support yourself, and not depend on the other people in the church to support you. The Thessalonian church did not get the point. Paul sent another letter, written more bluntly, to remind the people in the church, saying, “When we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10. The New Testament does not support the idea of a “free lunch.” Lunch only comes because somebody has done some work. Paul says that if you follow these instructions, you will lack nothing (I Thessalonians 4:12).
The loved apostle John specializes in this area of love, writing more about it than any of the other apostles. He says, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” Revelation 1:5.
Jesus loved us so much that He washed us from our sins, He set us free from our sins by His own blood. “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” I John 4:17–21.
The most fundamental truth of the Christian religion is the love of God for man and our reciprocal love for Him. The by-product is to love your brother. Some people say, “Well, you just don’t know how awful he is.” You can be so glad Jesus didn’t say that about you, because He did know how awful you are and He loved you anyway, so much that He paid the penalty and made a way that you could be delivered from your sins. That same love He manifested to you, you owe the one who is trapped in the bondage of sin. If Jesus had looked down the stream of time and looked at you in your natural state and said, “Well, he’s so bad, just let him go to hell,” well, then, you would have gone to hell. The whole human race would have been lost because of how awful we are, but He extended mercy, and so should we also.
Mark tells one of my favorite stories, in chapter nine of his book. Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration and there was the boy possessed of demons. Ellen White describes this boy as frothing at the mouth and screaming in agony from the torment of the devil. It was an awful sight. He had no control over his muscles or his body and at the command of Jesus, the evil spirit left him to never enter him again (The Miracles of Christ, 122, 123). The persons you meet with terrible characters, who have done awful things, are under the control of the devil and can be saved. Don’t cast them off as lost souls, but pray for their release and work for them. They do not have to remain that way. All of the awfulness could be taken away from them, and they could become pure and holy people. The Lord desires to work a miracle in their lives, just like He desires for us. When we believe that, we will change the way we perceive them and talk to them. We will learn to talk like Jesus. He was always courteous, even to His enemies. Remember, Jesus said that we will be forgiven for our sins as we forgive others (Luke 11:4).
One of the most heinous things that a human being could do is what Judas Iscariot did in his betrayal of Jesus. To be betrayed by one who has been in your innermost circle and manifest love for many years and then to discover that their love has been all fake is to experience something most terrible. But Jesus, responding to him in love, said, ”Friend, why have you come?” Matthew 26:50. Jesus demonstrated perfect love, even to His enemies.
John says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [to pay the price] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” I John 4:10–12.
Theologians have written books that all disagree about the subject of perfection, causing it to be a subject of tremendous theological controversy. But for the apostle John, it was not complicated. He says, “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” When I have perfect love, for my neighbor, God’s love has been perfected in me. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not [grievous or] burdensome.” I John 5:2, 3. Many people are confused thinking they can love their neighbor without loving God and serving Him. But John says this is not possible without keeping His commandments.
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brothers righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” I John 3:10–14.
If you do not love your brother you abide in death and you have no hope of eternal life. This is a strong message that needs to be understood. You cannot go around as a cold, uncaring, unloving person to your fellow man and expect to go to the kingdom of heaven. It is simply not going to happen!
John says, “Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” I John 2:7–11.
Notice that the person who hates his brother and is in darkness does not know that he is in darkness, nor does he know where he is going. These people are deceived and really believe they are on the narrow way but are in darkness. They could be people who believe the same as you, but blinded by darkness. Pray for the Lord to open your eyes. Ask Him to reveal if your mind is playing tricks and there is somebody that you actually hate. This passage of Scripture reveals that the person who hates his brother will tell you that they love him while their actions prove otherwise. They are as spiritually blinded as one who is physically blind. John says the person who hates his brother doesn’t know he is in the dark and does not know where he is going. This is a sobering thought about which we need to pray.
The experience that is needed is found in I John 1:5–7: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Is that the experience for which you are praying? Are you walking in the light? Remember, the person that is walking in the light is the one that loves his brother. It is lack of love that causes churches to split; it causes divorces, and it causes unhappiness between brothers and sisters.
“The cultivation of a uniform courtesy, a willingness to do to others as we would wish them to do to us, would annihilate [do away with] half the ills of life.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 132. How simple the remedy to cut down by fifty percent all of life’s trouble!
Jesus told His disciples of a new commandment that they love one another as He loved them. That was fresh in their minds after the resurrection, and the result was something that had never happened before. All squabbling and jealousy faded in view of the love that Jesus had displayed for them at the cross. It changed everything. The church today is in need of that same vision—we need to be anointed with eyesalve to heal our blindness and see the love of Jesus.
“Such a love the believers were ever to cherish. They were to go forward in willing obedience to the new commandment. So closely were they to be united with Christ that they would be enabled to fulfill all His requirements. Their lives were to magnify the power of a Saviour who could justify them by His righteousness.
“But gradually a change came. …” The Acts of the Apostles, 547, 548.
By the end of the first century:
- They lost their first love and began to look for defects in others.
- They dwelt upon mistakes.
- They gave place to unkind criticism.
- They lost sight of the Saviour and His love.
- They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies.
- They became more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others they overlooked their own errors.
- They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined.
- And the saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They didn’t know. They lost it, and they didn’t even know it.
“They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness.” Ibid., 548.
O, friend, study that paragraph for yourself, The Acts of the Apostles, 548, and say, Lord, help me to not have that experience. Help me to get back my first love, and to love my neighbor like Jesus loves me, including those who are presently possessed of the devil.
Christianity has been wandering in a desert; the wilderness of this world, and most of the world, do not understand what Christianity really is, because they have never seen it in living form. Pray that we may receive the Holy Spirit, that we may exhibit brotherly love to those around us and prepare for the kingdom of heaven so others may be attracted to the Saviour.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.