At the Last Supper, Jesus’ time was at hand and He had completed His public preaching. Therefore, He sought to speak privately with His disciples. During this time, among other things, He taught them of their duty regarding brotherly love. Loving our brethren is considered a duty because Jesus commanded us to “love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34) Jesus is God the Son and giving us a new commandment was well within the parameters of His authority (Matt 28:18). Yet this commandment was so not much a new mandate as it was an old commandment with a new standard appended.
In Matthew 22:39 we read, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” So, the concept of loving our brethren was not new. The difference was that humanity had now witnessed perfect love. Jesus’ command calls us to the highest path one could hope to travel. We are commanded to love each other as He loved us. John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And this is how Christ loved us. He loved us sacrificially.
Types of Love
In the English language, the word love is usually differentiated by the use of an adjective. (e.g. familial love, maternal love, erotic love, brotherly love) In New Testament Greek, however, there are multiple words for love that identify its various types.
Greek words for love:
1.) agape – is understood to be unconditional, divine love
2.) philia – is the type love one would have for a friend or comrade
3.) eros – romance and sexual desire are usually associated with this word
4.) storge – is best compared to the affectionate love felt for family members
(see: Greek words for love)
Love is Action
As Christians, we are enjoined to demonstrate love for our fellow Christians; it is a virtue we are called to display (Heb 13:1). This means taking action, not merely paying lip service to an ideal. It costs us nothing to say, “I love you” Conversely, a brother or sister in need must be helped in a very real way. Vain well-wishing, unaccompanied by any real assistance, is worthless (Jam 2:15-16). Not only are we called to show love with actions, we are expected to grow in this area continually (1 Thess 4:9-10). We are purified for this purpose (1 Pet 1:22) and our kind affection toward each other is revealed by taking initiative (Rom 12:10).
The necessity of love in the Christian experience
Anyone who has known an unloving claimant to Christendom instinctively sees the contradiction. The truth is that all sincere claims to know or love God must be accompanied by Christ-like behavior and comportment (cf. 1Jn 4:7-8, 20-21). Christians may not always abide in beatific peace. Yet we are expected to show love and grow in that love for one another. One of the worst things we can do to our Christian witness is to be unloving to our fellow Christians.
Our love of our fellow Christians is an identifying mark. Prior to Jesus’ departure, He told the disciples, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples” (Jn 13:35) He did not leave them without love and companionship in their lives. His message clearly implied that they could know His love for them daily by showing it to each other. Jesus’ true followers are known by their love. The common love Christians have for each other is one of our greatest arguments for God’s existence and transformative power. We either prove or disprove our Christian discipleship by how we love one another; the student ought to be like the teacher.
Christ does not suggest but rather commands us to love one another. And we are not to possess just any type of love for our fellow Christians. Our Lord was very specific in His command. We are love as He loved and this is indeed a high standard.
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C. David Ragland, Jr.
October 31, 2015