Another church displayed a simple poster. “You know that bit where it says, ‘Love one another.’ Well, I meant it.” God calls us to love each other in the church and he calls us to love our neighbours as well. But what should motivate us to love, especially when loving others becomes costly or challenging or just plain boring?
Let me suggest six possible motives why we should love others. I believe they are of increasing importance. The first reason we love is because of people’s needs. Whether in Nepal or India or Africa or Bulgaria, or just down the road from us, many people have great needs, physical and emotional and spiritual. But we don’t love people just because we see their needs and think we could make a difference. That’s a weak motive because however hard we work, however much of ourselves we give, we will never ever make a visible dent in the mountain of needs! Beware of the temptation of looking for “results” and trying to measure our “success or failure.”
Then we may love others because we genuinely care for them. It is right and good that we care about people. The lesson we learn from the bad example of the Pharisees is that it is always preferable to serve out of love than out of duty. But loving people may not be enough because at times people can be very hard to love! It was Charlie Brown who said, “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand!” Surely a stronger motive for loving people is recognising that God loves people. Our task is not to love people but to take God’s love to people! God’s love for people is infinitely greater than our love for them. When we want to give up, God’s love never gives up!
Then we should love others because we follow Jesus Christ and His example. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:14-15) Christ’s life is a continual example of sacrificial service – and as his disciples we should walk in his steps. And so we should love others also in obedience to Christ’s command. But serving out of duty and obedience will never be sufficient motivation when the going gets so tough that the tough have long since packed their bags and given up.
So what is the ultimate and best reason for loving others? It is simply this. Because God loves you! Never forget this glorious truth. God loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die for your sins so that He could make you His child. God loves you so much that He has come to live WITHIN you by His Holy Spirit. God loves you – and nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from that love God has for you. That’s why we love other people God. Because God loves us. “We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) We love God and we love others because God loved us first. The love which we have received inspires and sustains us. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Christ’s love compels us” It isn’t our love for Christ but it’s Christ’s love for us which compels us to love other people!
May God help us all to love in the same way He has loved us!