When asked what the most important commandment was, Christ gave two answers (Matthew 22): love God and love each other. Love is the entire reason for us being here in the first place, it’s the reason for God giving us Jesus Christ, and it’s the reason we are given the Holy Spirit.
Love People, Love God
God make it very clear how we are to act towards each other. Love is a word we throw around casually, but it has implications that we sometimes. Love is forgiveness. Love is grace. Love is sacrifice. Love is selfless. Love is giving. Is this what we mean when we say love?
Consider the following passage in John…
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:9-14)
Christ minces no words when telling us how we can call him “friend”. When we love others, we are being a friend to Christ. This echos a lesson taught in Matthew about the final coming of Christ…
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:37-40)
Jesus calls us his ‘friend’ when we obey his command and, as we see, his command is to love one another the same way Christ loved us. How does this make us his friend? Simple: because when we love others, we are loving God.
Cycle of Love
The passages of Matthew 25 and John 15 form what we can call a ‘cycle of love’. God commands us to love each other. When we love each other, we love God. Because we love God and obey his commands, he calls us friend. This ‘cycle’ emphasizes the importance and reward of love: when we love one another we win the favor of God.
Knowledge of the love of Christ challenges us. Do we reciprocate the love Christ shows us or do we hoard it for ourselves? Who have we not loved as we should? We should take it as a challenge to love even when it is not deserved, not owed, and even when it is not welcome.