Love One Another

[This is a slightly edited version of my manuscript that launched the discussion of one of our table talks – what it looks like to love one another]

The three loves of DEC are:

  1. Love God
  2. Love One Another
  3. Love Dewsbury

Last month we looked at loving God by loving his presence and his mission. Now it’s time to look at what it means to:

What does that look like in the church? Well on the night he was betrayed, on the eve before the cross, Jesus said to his disciples.

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 13:34

A new command in that it raised the bar of love that the OT required in Leviticus 19:18 ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.

The bar is no longer love as you would love yourself, now it is love as Christ loves. Sacrificial grace-fuelled love.

Love one another. John 13.34 style. Like Jesus.

With this in mind, I’ve heard it said many times in churches – “you don’t have to like someone to love them

Q1: Why might that be an unhelpful way of thinking in the church?

Some answers: It might create favouritism or factions, foster bitterness and unforgiveness. Is not John 13:34 love.

John 13 is the beginning of what it looks like to one another each in the church – a phrase used well over fifty times to describe relationships to one another as Christians (in Greek they come from two words – allelon being the majority and sometimes heautous). Here they are:

  1. John 13:14 – If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
  2. John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
  3. John 13:35 – By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
  4. John 15:12 – This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
  5. John 15:17 – These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
  6. Romans 1:12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
  7. Romans 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.
  8. Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
  9. Romans 14:13 – Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
  10. Romans 15:5 – May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
  11. Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
  12. Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
  13. Romans 16:16 – Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
  14. 1 Corinthians 11:33 – So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—
  15. 1 Corinthians 12:25 – that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
  16. 1 Corinthians 16:20 – All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
  17. 2 Corinthians 13:11 – Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
  18. 2 Corinthians 13:12 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
  19. Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
  20. Galatians 5:15 – But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
  21. Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
  22. Ephesians 4:2 – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
  23. Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
  24. Ephesians 5:19 – addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
  25. Ephesians 5:21 – submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
  26. Colossians 3:9 – Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
  27. Colossians 3:13 – bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
  28. Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
  29. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 – and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
  30. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 – Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
  31. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 – Therefore encourage one another with these words.
  32. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
  33. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 – See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
  34. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
  35. Hebrews 3:13 – But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
  36. Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
  37. Hebrews 10:25 – not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  38. James 4:11 – Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
  39. James 5:9 – Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
  40. James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  41. 1 Peter 1:22 – Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
  42. 1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
  43. 1 Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  44. 1 Peter 4:10 – As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
  45. 1 Peter 5:5 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
  46. 1 Peter 5:14 – Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
  47. 1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
  48. 1 John 3:11 – For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
  49. 1 John 3:23 – And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
  50. 1 John 4:7 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
  51. 1 John 4:11 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
  52. 1 John 4:12 – No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
  53. 2 John 5 – And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.

If you looked through them all you’d see a lot of them are just reiterating the command love one another or various expressions of that command.

But I want to home in on two ways we can love one another from this list.

And the first is found from the principle of what Jesus did in John 13 before he issued this command to love one another as I have loved you.

In John 13 we have this remarkable display of humility where Jesus washes his disciple’s feet. I wonder what is the principle that he draws out from this?

As he says in John 13:14-15:

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

The principle is to be servant-like towards one another.

To love one another through serving. This was something done by the lowliest of servants and yet here is the Lord of Lords doing it!

Here’s a couple of verses to show you this kind of “one anothering”:

Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another

1 Peter 4:10 – “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace

It’s no surprise that in v8 Peter has just said ‘love one another deeply…

Both Jesus, Paul and Peter highlight the need to love through serving one another.

Q2: What does ‘serving one another’ look like in the church? How might it look different depending on your gifting and who you’re serving?

Some different areas of serving: Elderly. Families. Children. Teenagers. Single. Married. Mature. New Christian. Struggling. House-bound. Grieving.

Answers not limited to but including: Serving through caring, through meals, through Sunday roles, through visiting, giving, through encouraging, through discipling…

Q3: What are some of the challenges to serving one another and how can we overcome them?

Some answers: Time. Motivation. Selfishness. Energy. Comparing yourself to others. Commitments.

Read: Mark 10:35-45

In this Jesus remarkably shows James and John and all the disciples that we shouldn’t be like the world when it comes to leading, we don’t lord it over one another or seek power – it’s about serving. As he says in v45:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

And it’s a lesson we all need to learn when we think we should be served rather than serve. We serve because Jesus served us. We love because Jesus loved us. “Love one another as I have loved you…”

And one of those activities, one way of ‘loving through serving’ is hospitality. After all, Jesus by washing his disciples feet was showing hospitality to his disciples, even if it was the job of the lowliest servant.

And just the verse before 1 Peter 4:10 we read in 1 Peter 4:9:

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.’

It’s an interesting verse because the word for hospitality here has part of it’s root “philo” – which is Greek for love.

Also, even though it has a kind of verb-like force – show hospitality or offer or practice hospitality, is actually an adjective – which some scholars say reminds us that hospitality isn’t primarily something we do, it should describe who we are. To be Christian is to be hospitable Christians.

And it comes with a qualifier – “do it without grumbling!”  

It’s the same word to describe what elders should do and although it can mean show kindness to strangers – in the context here it is primarily towards other Christians in the local church.

Hospitality is key to the life of the local church.

Definition: Hospitality is an expression of love by welcoming one another into our lives and sharing what we have.

So here’s the question –

Q4: What could hospitality look like in your life?

Some of the best conversations happen over washing up…some of the best stories told over the table.

Action point: Perhaps one way of doing this more is by inviting people round or out for tea/food that you wouldn’t normally rub shoulders with in the church. Maybe we can go home thinking – who can I have round by the end of the month? Maybe somebody from church who has never been to my house…or why not meet up for cuppa in Dewsbury?

If you want to read a great book about hospitality then I’d recommend this little gem:

Extraordinary Hospitality (for Ordinary People): Seven Ways to Welcome Like Jesus – Carolyn Lacey

Here’s a taster on Jesus-shaped hospitality:

Our focus may be impressing others or putting a tick next to the “hospitality” box on our list of spiritual disciplines. We may be looking to what we can get out of hospitality—affirmation, respect, fun or friendship—rather than what we can give. Jesus-shaped hospitality is personal and others-focused. He cared about everyday practical needs such as food and rest. He cared about suffering, pain, grief, loneliness and shame

Love one another. How important it is to do this! To love through serving and love through hospitality. As Karen Jobes says in a her brilliant commentary on 1 Peter:

“When the full range of activities in the Christian community is done with love, then in all things…God is glorified through Jesus Christ”

Whatever we do, let’s try and seek to love one another through serving one another. Through hospitality. Let us be servants to and for one another in the church – for God’s glory.

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