The Greatest of These (4)
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is the greatest of all the virtues. God commands us to love Him and our neighbors, and we have seen that loving God takes some fairly specific forms. We can be sure that we’re increasing in love for God when the various indicators of that love begin to be more in evidence in our lives.
But what about loving our neighbors? What does love “look like” as we extend it to the people around us – in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, communities, churches, and so forth? Just as there are indicators which can guide us into greater love for God, so there are indicators which will help us to know when we’re loving our neighbors as we should. Let me mention five. In each of these areas we may consider whether we really love our neighbors as we love ourselves, or whether we need help growing in some aspect of that “greatest of these” virtues.
First, we love our neighbors when, like Jesus, we seek them out to love them (cf. Lk. 19:1-10). Jesus did not wait for lost or hurting people to find their way to Him. He went looking for them. He leaned the names of many of them, and used them freely. He took the initiative in making certain contacts, some of which He repeated many times during His earthly sojourn. Jesus started conversations with people and was doubtless a good listener. And He prayed often for others, seeking their wellbeing before the Father. We can know that we love our neighbors when, like Jesus, we go seeking them, in order to touch them with His love.
We also love our neighbors as ourselves when we make ourselves available to serve them in various ways (Jn. 13:1-15). Here we must learn to be alert to the needs of others, to sense when they’re hurting or in need of some assistance. As we get to know people better we’ll want to let them know we’re always available to help should they need anything. And if we lack skills to serve others, we will become equipped and will persevere in reaching out to them every way we can. Above all we will point them to Jesus by our lives and words, in the hope that they might find in Him all the precious and very great promises of God (2 Cor. 1:20).
Third, the various “one another” passages in the New Testament suggest that one expression of neighbor love involves our “shepherding” others in their walk with the Lord. By building strong relationships, living and sharing from our own walk with the Lord, giving up some of our time and interests to care for others, defending them against false teaching and temptations, and helping them to grow in the Lord’s salvation we fulfill the shepherding role that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, declared He had come to perform (cf. Jn. 10).
Fourth, we love our neighbors when we encourage and instruct them in the Word of God. After all, here is where they, too, can learn to love with the love of God. We want our neighbors to hear the Gospel, to become immersed in the study of Scripture, to be able to drink from the living waters of the well of God’s Word so that they are daily refreshed and renewed in Him.
Finally, we love others when we are being a good steward of our time, treasure, talents, and attention in helping them to know the love of Christ. By praying for people, planning the time we will have with them, staying alert to others while we’re with them, seeking the Kingdom of God no matter the context, and maintaining an active watch over our own souls, we may hope to increase in love for our neighbors and, thus, to enrich the treasury of our souls with the love of God.
Just as we can grow in love for the Lord, so we must also strive to grow in love for our neighbors. Love is an active virtue. As Jesus came amongst us to seek and love us, so we must go among the people around us, determined to help them know the love of God which surpasses knowledge.
Review the indicators of neighbor-love mentioned in this article. Evaluate yourself on each of these, using a scale of 1 to 10. Where do you need to improve? Share with your Christian friends and ask them to join you in praying that you might increase in love for your neighbors.
This week’s series, The Greatest of These, is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for group study.
For more insight to the practice of temperance, order the book, Loving God, by Charles Colson. For more insight to the true nature of love, read the article, “True Love,” by Regis Nicoll.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.