Four letters. And yet, all wrapped up in those four little letters is a whole world of ideas. There are misconceptions, lies, and half-truths; and there are also beautiful whole-truths about God and who He created us to be. We were made to love and be loved; to love God, and love people.
Today, we’re starting a new series on Biblical love. A new kind of love. As we open the Word of God together, we’re going to discover, not just how love has been distorted throughout time, but also how Jesus changed everything when He came to earth and taught us by example what love really looks like.
Love and Humanity
Before we can talk about the relationship between love and humanity, though, we have to talk about the connection between God and love. Over and over throughout Jesus’s ministry here on earth He spoke of the unity between the Father, the Spirit, and Himself. It is undeniable that the three persons of the Godhead are bonded together in a love so deep it’s hard to understand. It is a connection so complete that it literally makes them one being! In fact, love is such a defining part of God’s character that the Bible tells us He IS love. (1 John 4:8)
So it should come as no surprise that when God made humans in His image, a profound need to love and be loved came woven deep into the fiber of who we are. From the beginning, we were meant to find completion in relationship both with God and with each other, for God did not deem His work “very good” until love was introduced into creation with a perfectly matched pair of humans.
The Bible tells us God blessed that pair, told them to multiply, and instructed them to hold so tightly to one another that they would become “one flesh.” A picture that brings to mind the unity of the Trinity in whose image the pair had been made.
But before we can proceed into how Jesus changed everything about love, we should take a little time to talk about how the collision of love and humanity (that is, sinful, fallen humanity) has distorted love. We need to know why it needed changing in the first place. After all, it was created perfect. Just like we were.
Unfortunately, sin really messed that up for us. After the fall, pride and selfishness became the dominating forces pushing humanity along, causing our ideas about love to twist and contort into something almost unrecognizable from God’s original design.
Humans have made love into a fleeting feeling. One we chase, stumbling in and out of it, with eyes only for what it brings to us. When we meet a person who stirs the butterflies in our stomach, we’re quick to declare that we are “in love.” However, when those feelings inevitably wane, we resign ourselves to the idea that we “fell out of love.”
Little thought is given to how well we’re loving others, only to how the relationship makes us feel or to how well we are being loved. So, with everyone seeking only to be loved, and even then only according to our distorted definitions of what love is, there is precious little lovING actually going on. In fact, we speak more openly about our “love” for food or favorite pastimes than we do about our love for people… let alone God.
We’re collectively left empty and wanting, all the while failing to turn to the only source of true love left within this broken world. We need a new kind of love!
*Here’s a pretty cool post from Oh Lord Help Us that says pretty much the same things we’ve just talked about, but in a little bit different way. So before you move on, maybe check out this post on realizing the difference between God’s love and the world’s.
God’s Law of Love – Love God and Love People
Thankfully, our God is not one to leave His people without hope. As soon as sin entered the world and began corrupting God’s perfect creation, He set into motion a plan that would lead us back to His perfect love.
As part of that plan, God chose for Himself a people (the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to bear His name and help the world understand their need for a Savior. He gave them His law, a set of standards meant to show us that we simply can not be righteous on our own.
There were many commandments in God’s law, but Jesus would later teach that they could all be summed up with just these two:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
- Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
So basically, the law brought us back to love. It returned us to a love done the way God originally intended for it to be done – Love God, and love people. We were told to love God with our everything, and to love people selflessly.
But as we’ve already discussed, we’re simply incapable of keeping the law on our own. We can’t do it. We can’t love God and love people. Not really. We’re too selfish, too full of pride. We’re too hopelessly enslaved to sin.
We still needed a new kind of love. We needed a savior.
How Jesus Changed Everything
And so, a Savior came. God sent His Son, Jesus, to demonstrate a love like we had never seen. When He showed up, Jesus changed EVERYTHING! He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for us, making atonement for our sins and opening the way back up for us to once again enter into a love relationship with God.
No longer was righteousness (which is necessary in order to enter God’s presence) about our weak attempts to keep a law we could not keep. Now, true righteousness was attainable through the forgiveness of sins, available through faith in Christ. Jesus changed everything!
But here’s the thing. While Jesus changed everything on one level, in so many other ways, He only re-affirmed what had always been true. It had always been faith in Him that brought about righteousness… only now it was complete. It had always been about love, only now He was going to ask His people to go beyond the command to love God and love people with a new commandment.
Jesus was about to introduce a new kind of love. And if we thought the old commandments on love were tough, the new one was about to blow them out of the water!
A New Kind of Love
But when Jesus changed everything about the way we’re called to love, He didn’t just hand out rules, the way the law had. This time, Jesus perfectly demonstrated this new kind of love Himself, then asked us to follow His example.
So how did Jesus love us? Well, He willingly gave up everything: heaven, His divine privileges, His life, His comfort, and even His unity with Father and Spirit (the most precious thing of all), and sacrificed Himself for us.
Philippians 2:6-8 – Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Jesus told us in John 13 to follow His example and prove to the world that we’re His disciples by loving each other (the body of Christ) the way He loved us.
It’s a tall order. An IMPOSSIBLE order! But, when Jesus changed everything, something else He did was send us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God lives in us now, empowering us to do things that are impossible on our own.
We CAN love like Jesus, but only when we’re allowing the love of God to work through us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Digging into how Jesus Changed Everything with this New Kind of Love
Of course, all of this has only really scratched the surface of the issue. We’ve introduced the ideas we’re going to dig into in much further detail throughout this series.
Come back for part two where we’ll dig deeper into the greatest commandments – love God, and love people. After all, they weren’t made obsolete in Christ, but re-affirmed. What does it look like to love the Lord with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves? And who is our neighbor? Who does this command apply to? We’re going to figure all of that out.
Then, join me in part three where we are going to really search out Scripture for Jesus’s teaching on love and His new commandment to love like He loved.
Finally, come back for part four where we’re going to get into the practical application for all of this and learn HOW to love like Jesus. What is that really going to look like fleshed out in our lives?
You can find the whole series, along with some tools and resources to help you love better on the series page: