In this passage, and in John’s writing in general, one another is specifically applied to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not that we shouldn’t love our non-believing friends, family, neighbors, or enemies, but in this specific passage Jesus is speaking to believers about the special fellowship love they are to have for other believers. Indeed, it is by this special fellowship love that, “All people (outside the church) will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
So, as Jesus has loved you, so love others in your church. A simple enough truth to understand, but practicing it will most likely change the shape of our Christianity in very significant ways. What does it look like to love those in our local churches like Christ has loved us? Here are some thoughts to get you started.
Pray for those in your church. Romans 8:34 says Jesus is always, “is interceding for us” before His Father in heaven. Are we loving our churches in prayer like Jesus loves us in prayer? Who in your church have you prayed for today or this week? Who can you begin to pray for?
Lay aside your rights for the good of those in your church. “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus laid aside His glories and rights as the Son of God to save His church and bring her to Himself. Therefore, we should be ready to work in the nursery once in a while, have our parking spot (or normal seat in church) taken, teach the children’s Sunday school, or help set-up/tear-down for services. May we never be “too great” or “too important” to love our church like Jesus loved us.
Use your gifts for the good of those in your church. Jesus used His incarnation (John 1:14), the Spirit’s empowerment (Isaiah 11:1-5), His wisdom (Luke 2:40), His prayers (John 17:20-21), and everything else He had to bring good to His people. In fact, He still uses all He has for the good of His people. We are told by Paul that all members of the church are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bless the church in some meaningful way. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7). If we are to love one another as He loves us that means that you are to use your teaching ability, your education, your home, your materials, your position, your talents, and everything else you have for your church’s good like Jesus did for us.
Make sacrifices for those in your church. Jesus was God’s willing sacrifice for our sins (John 1:29; 3:16-17; 1 John 3:16; 4:10). He was willingly sent and He willingly came to lay His life down so we could have life in Him. Unsurprisingly, this is the example for how we are to love the members of our church: “In this is love, not that we have 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 4:10-11). A good question for reflection, when was the last time you sacrificed, you gave up something costly, to benefit your brother or sister? What is something you can do this week?
Meet the needs of those in your church. Jesus meets our needs (do I need a reference?). Loving our church members like Jesus loves us means that we should be quick to meet their needs. As John reminds us, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). What are the needs of those you sit next to on a Sunday morning? Are you meeting them as you’re able?
Spend time with people in your church. Jesus promises us that he will never leave us and that He will always be with His church till the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, loving our church like He loves us will look like us being intentional about being present with our church. This should make us very hesitant to be absent from our weekly gatherings with the church and should drive us to meet together with members of our church regularly. Presence is the soil that our loving relationships are grown in; make sure the soil is plentiful.
Be intentional about how to be a blessing for those in your church. Jesus didn’t happen to bless His church accidentally or stumble into saving us, but He willingly came to do it with all He had. Don’t simply cross yours fingers and hope to be a blessing to your church, but intentionally think about how you can work for their good and do it. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Think about ways you bless your church. Maybe you can show up early to services shake hands and welcome people. Maybe you can write a few notes of meaningful encouragement. Maybe you can buy the pastor a gift card and offer to watch his kids so he can surprise his wife and take her out on date night. Maybe you can invite that struggling couple over for dinner and warm fellowship. Maybe you can call people with the sole intention of strengthening them in Christ. Buy someone lunch and get to know them. There are lots of ways we can work for our church’s good if only we sit down and do some intentional thinking and planning like Jesus did and does for us.
There’s lots more to say, but I think the point is clear: remembering and practicing to love the church like Jesus has loved us will most likely change the shape of our Christianity. However, although this post may bring pangs of conviction, I hope that conviction turns to obedience and thus results in joy. None of us do this perfectly and all of us are in constant need of being reminded to love like Christ has loved us.
As we are reminded together here, let’s remember, Jesus’ commands are always designed for our joy and not our sorrow. In commanding us to love His people like He has loved us, Jesus is commanding us toward a life of abundant joy and away from one of sorrow.
So, in the end, “Love each other as I have loved you…“