The Mark of a Disciple: Love
At the last supper, prior to the crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples to, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). The mark of the disciple is to love like Jesus’ loved us.
In John’s first letter, the Apostle reminds the church of this, “This is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another” (1 Jn. 3:11). Later on, John points out that love shows that we are born of God (we have new life in Him), know God (have a living relationship with Him) and that God lives in us by His Spirit, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:7-13).
Yet, what love are we talking about here? Most of us have our own definitions of what we think is love. Yet, God did not leave us in the dark regarding what He meant by the word “love”…
God has shown His love in His Son
As John writes in 1 Jn. 4:9, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him” (v. 9). In many ways, John is retelling Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. In sending Jesus, God the Son, to come “in the flesh” (to become a human being) (1 Jn. 4:2) God has visibly revealed His love.
And this is the love that Jesus visibly revealed… In love Jesus sacrificially left the comfort of His Father (who loves Him), entering a hostile world (a world, as John describes in His Gospel and letter, that “hates” Him; rebelling against Him). Yet, Jesus did this for the benefit of the world, so that this sinful rebellious world of death might receive the gift of eternal life in Him, “that we might live through Him”.
And in v. 10, John shows us how Jesus gave us this gift of life… Jesus did not give the gift of life because we deserved it. God did not love us in response to our love (we made no real effort to love Him), “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us”.
God, in His love, was determined to give the gift of life to the unloving, by sending His Son, “as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”. As the one who will pay the cost of our rebellion: death. He embraced our death, our darkness; so that in Him we might receive atonement (reconciliation) and the gift of life with God.
So when Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35), this is love He called us to… A love that self-sacrificially reaches out to those outside your circle (who are not like you or part of you or who might not even like you). And you reach out for their benefit at the expense of yourself. That is God’s unconditional love. That is the love God revealed at the Cross.
So how do you know you are born of God, know God and God lives in you? It is when you have seen God’s love in the Cross of Jesus and respond in faith/trust in His love. It is only if you have seen God’s love in Christ Jesus that you will be transformed to love as God loves. Knowing God in Jesus will transform you to love like God in Jesus. The power to love is found in the message of love: The Gospel of Jesus… You can only love if you return to and come to know the Author of love… That is the mark of a true believer.