Love one another. Three simple words. An easily understood command. One half of the great commandment (Matthew 22:34-40). Yet, it is one of the most difficult commands of all of Scripture to practice on a regular basis.
In his first letter, the apostle John talks about the importance of loving one another on three separate occasions (1 John 2:7-11; 3:11-18; 4:7-21). In chapter 4 alone, he gives the instruction three times and rephrases it for a fourth emphasis (4:7, 11, 12, 21). It was so important in the first century that John taught, retaught, and emphasized it repeatedly. Tradition says that in his latter years, the apostle would be carried into a room and he would give the simple instruction over and over again, “Love one another. Love one another.”
Sadly, not much has changed in almost 2,000 years. We need to be reminded of the instruction today. Christians snipe at each other in the blogosphere. Churches are split over petty issues. Christian couples divorce over conflict and differences. People harbor grudges and refuse to acknowledge the person across the aisle who may have inadvertently hurt them years ago. Gossip is spread under the guise of “pray about so-and-so.”
The ability to love one another does not come as standard equipment on anyone born into the human race. It is the optional equipment package none of us ever chooses. We can only accomplish this task when we submit our lives to God, receive forgiveness of sins, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, when we love others we demonstrate the reality that we have been transformed. Because God loves us and lives in us, we can and should love one another. That is the gist of John’s argument in 1 John 4:7-21.
Love one another. A simple command but not one we can obey in our own power. We can only accomplish it when the God who is love works in and through us.