The Divine Example
Christians are to love others and especially those of the household of faith because Christ has demonstrated the perfect example of love. The Apostle John discusses this fact in his first epistle when he says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16).” Notice how John lays down Christ as our example for love? Because Christ the Savior, truly divine Himself, took on flesh and sacrificed Himself for us we can know love. We can know love because we have been loved by Him who is love and demonstrated the supreme act of love!
Therefore, since we know the love of Christ we seek to love others. John zeroes in on loving our fellow Christians with his use of the word “brothers” at the end of verse 16. In other words, Christ laid down His life for the church in love and we should lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in love. Of course, our love extends for the lost in that we desire their salvation so we share the Gospel in the hope they would know Christ and seek to glorify Him in all their life. This love dictates we proclaim the Gospel to the lost and we teach the entire counsel of God’s Word. The love of Christ working in us leads to the love of others and specifically to action.
The Loving Action of Biblical Christianity
True Christianity leads to action. If we really have been saved by Christ and know His love, then we will love others as an outflowing of that reality. The example of Christ is the foundation for why John tells us to be ready to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians. The love of Christ is what prompts us to give our lives. While we are right to think of John’s words as a literal giving of our actual physical life for another, perhaps we should think about how this principle applies in our lives. If one person dies for another, that is the ultimate act of selfless love. Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” This is the supreme act of selflessness anyone can show. If I am called to be willing to undertake this supreme act of selfless love for others, then should I not also seek to give of myself in other ways? In other words, if I am to be willing to die for others, then should I not also be willing to serve them? If the love of Christ spurs me on to die for my brother, then shouldn’t I also give of my time, talents, and abilities for their benefit?
The answer to those questions is clearly yes, yes, and again yes. The call in Scripture to lay down your life is not just a call to physically die, it is also a call to die to your selfish desires every minute and to live for Christ’s will and that which is good for others especially for the household of faith. We read this in the Scripture, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “’If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).’” Not every Christian has died on a wooden cross, but every Christian is called to die to self and live for their Lord. The way of the cross is the way of saying no to selfish desires and saying yes to the commands of Christ. It is the way of doing that which is obedient to the Lord and good for others even when persecution comes. It is the serving of Christ and others and the consideration of self last of all. To lay your life down for your fellow believers is not only a call to die physically, it is also a call to die to selfishness and to love others in Christ.
The Implications of This Love
This calling of loving others is quite impactful when considering our lives. Fundamentally, it means that we must not seek self-promotion but Christ-exaltation through loving others. The objective of the Christian life is to serve and to serve and to serve more. With our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must seek to build them up in Scripture, serve them, edify and encourage one another, and lovingly rebuke each other as necessary. With those outside of the church our goal is to bring them to faith in Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel. All of this, requires dying to self and living for Christ.
If I am to seek my fellow Christians needs above my own, then the implication is that I must learn to value others above my own self. Similarly, if my calling is to love others then I must always seek their benefit even if it is to my detriment. It may be difficult for a person to stand up against evil, but love for others dictates we must oppose evil. Certainly, that could be detrimental to our own selves and even place us in prison, but it is nonetheless our duty. True Christian love is founded on Christ who forsook Himself and died in our place. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and it is on that foundation we are called to take up our cross and to give of our own lives. It is a giving of our life every day to die to self and if called upon to physically die for others. That is biblical Christianity’s definition of love.