Bible students are accustomed to reading the word “love” in the scriptures. In fact, in the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, the word “love” is found in every one of them except one. When it comes to the love that Jesus wants His disciples to show, there is instruction for us to love our neighbors (Romans 13:9), love our family members (Titus 2:4), and even love our enemies (Luke 6:35).
There is another aspect of love that is mentioned over and over throughout the new covenant. It is this three-word message: “Love one another.” Time and again the followers of the Christ are instructed to do that very thing – “Love one another.” Jesus spoke about it (John 13:34,35). Paul wrote about it, (1 Thessalonians 4:9,10), as did Peter (1 Peter 1:21).
There is one New Testament epistle, however, that especially grabs our attention on this topic, because it is “loaded” with the divine message for God’s children to love one another. The letter that we have in mind is 1 John. In four of the five chapters in this letter, we read about the need for God’s people to love one another. John speaks repeatedly of this, and he approaches the topic from a number of different angles. For our purposes, we want to survey the book of 1 John with one question in mind: What is there in 1 John that should motivate us to love one another? Why should we love one another?
(1) We should love one another because we are children of light. Walking in the light and walking in love go hand in hand. “He who loves his brother abides in the light,” but the saint who does not love his brother is in darkness (1 John 2:10,11). We understand the difference in the consequences of walking in darkness and walking in the light (1:6,7).
(2) We should love one another because we want to act like children of God. There is a clear-cut distinction between “the children of God and the children of the devil” (3:10). Those who do not love their brother in the Lord are “not of God” (3:10). So, if I want to be counted as “of God,” then I need to step up and love my fellow saints.
(3) We should love one another because we are moved to do so by Jesus’ example. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16). Jesus put love into action, and we are to have His heart/mindset (Philippians 2:5). His sacrifice for me ought to move me to display sacrificial love for my brethren.
(4) We should love one another because we are grateful for our blessings and know that caring is sharing. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (3:17). If we have compassion like the Godhead does, then surely we will find it a natural thing to share what we have with those who lack life’s basic necessities.
(5) We should love one another because God commands us to do so. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (3:23). As we have observed already, there is a lot more that motivates us to love one another in addition to the direct command to do so, but a command is a command, right? As God’s children, we strive to “do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (3:22). Loving one another is part of our calling.
(6) We should love one another because “love is of God” (4:7) and “God is love” (4:8). If we are members of God’s church, then we are part of the “love family”/“love team.” Loving one another comes with the territory of being in the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) – that is just what we do.
(7) We should love one another because God first loved us. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:11). In what way did the Father “so love” us? The previous verse says that “He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10). Do you mean God loved us while we were lost in sin, like filthy rags, and helpless without His kind efforts to rescue us? Yes. If God had such amazing love for us, then surely it is proper for us to love our sisters and brothers in the Christ, even though they have glaring faults and weaknesses just like I do. Thank you, Father, for showing us how to love.
(8) We should love one another because, and we are not ashamed to say it, we want God to be in fellowship with us. “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us . . . God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (4:12,16). Watch the wording: “abide in love”–“abide in God”–“God abides in” the ones who love one another. Of course we want God to be with and abide in us!
(9) We should love one another because doing so is part of loving God. That is right:“. . . he who loves God must love his brother also” (4:21). I cannot love God in the manner that He wants me to if I fail to love my brethren in the Lord.
Blessed is the congregation whose members put into action our Lord’s appeal to “love one another.” The benefits that come from serving and worshipping in such an environment are priceless! By the way, did you find the sole New Testament book in which “love” is not mentioned? It is the Book of Acts. Surprised? Study that book, though, and you will see the disciples’ loving one another!
— Roger D. Campbell