How can we love like Jesus?
This is the question this series has been working toward answering.
“So, what’s the answer?”
This post responds with two non-starters, two promises, and a prescription.
Let us begin with two common non-starters (among many) for loving like Jesus.
“Nice” is a wishy-washy word that typically means agreeable or pleasant. Of course, on its own, being agreeable or pleasant can be a good thing. The difficulty arises when we are agreeable and pleasant toward something that is not agreeable or pleasant to God.
Being nice is a practice that often accommodates itself to the expectations and morals of a culture or group so as not to offend. This accommodation often means that the “nice” person shapes love to suit the situation.
As an example, in modern western cultures, it is popular to accommodate or endorse sexual immorality on the pretext that it is the loving thing to do. Indeed, when Jesus confronted a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11), he did not condemn her. But we do not take the love of God seriously if we do not add what Jesus adds: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus does not accommodate or endorse sinful attitudes or behaviors.
In the opening post of this series, “What is Love?”, we explored five implications of agapē-love. One of these implications is that God is the standard of genuine agapē-love, not us.
Being nice, apart from God’s standard of agapē-love, results in reducing love in so many ways.
You might say that “copying Jesus” is a good thing. Indeed, God desires us to become more like Jesus Christ, who is God’s ultimate expression of agapē-love. The difficulty arises when we attempt to copy Jesus with our limited human abilities.
Many of the approaches using Jesus as an example of how to love, produce lists of things for us to do. For instance, one author proposes five qualities:
1. Be mindful;
2. Be approachable;
3. Be grace-full;
4. Be bold; and,
5. Be self-giving.
Others suggest different qualities. No matter how well-intentioned we may be in following these lists, if we view these characteristics as things we must do in our own strength, we will fail. The helpful writers include references to the “leading” and empowerment of the Holy Spirit—a necessary component to which we will return.
If being nice reduces God’s love to our level, copying Jesus in our own strength unrealistically elevates our abilities beyond our human limitations and sinfulness.
As we discovered in the previous article, “Loving Like Jesus and the Indicative-Imperative Principle,” our God always supplies what is needed to obey him.
Let us briefly introduce two promises of God’s supply so that we can love like Jesus?
Between Jesus’ double command to “love each other as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12), he provides this wonderful promise (14:12-14):
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
As followers of Jesus, we know what he intends as well as our own limitations. He invites us to ask for what must be done and promises that he will do it.
Immediately after the first promise, there is a second (14:15-17):
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
This promise covers all of our life in Christ—including loving like Jesus. Our lives, as followers of Jesus, are to be directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is much more to learn and to live.
In future posts, we will delve more deeply into the person and activities of the Holy Spirit.
This prescription comes in three parts.
First, I encourage you to read or listen to the farewell message of Jesus in John 14-16. You may want to read this passage several times. Remember that it is less than 20% of the content John’s Gospel, yet it contains more than 70% of references to agapē-love. Notice what Jesus says about love, obedience, and the Spirit. How are they connected? What does this mean for you?
Second, in light of what you have read in John 14-16, what needs to change in your life so that you can love like Jesus? Do you shape what “love” looks like to be nice? Have you been trying to “love” with your own abilities? Are there other distortions of agapē-love in your life?
Third, ask “in his name” for all that you need to love like Jesus. After all, he has promised to do it.
Feel free to write to me here with your comments and questions.
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