We crave love. We want it more than anything and will often do anything to know that we are loved unconditionally. No one has loved better than Christ, who is the fullest demonstration of God's love. He loved the worst of sinners and the best of saints. He loved prostitutes, drunks, the brokenhearted, atheists, religious people, and doubters. Furthermore, He told us as His followers that we are to love like He loves.
Here are four foundational truths about Jesus' love that will help us represent Him in the world:
1. Jesus loves people. In Mark 10:17-22, we meet a man who was very different than Jesus. This rich young ruler wasn't at the same spiritual level Jesus was; he was self-righteous, gripped by the sins of materialism and greed. He even walked away from Jesus. Yet the text still says, "Jesus...loved him" (v. 21). The Greek word for love here is agapaó, an unconditional love of the will. Jesus never met anyone He didn't love. As Paul wrote, nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).
2. Jesus loves people individually. When He was on earth, His approach to loving wasn't canned or predictable. In Mark 10, Jesus blessed little children, and in Mark 11, He overturned tables and rebuked the sellers in the temple. He had the unique ability to read a situation, know who He was dealing with, and love them accordingly. The love of Jesus was tailor-made for every individual He met, with each expression unique to the situation.
3. Jesus loves people through us. We as the church are the body of Christ: we are His hands, touching people who hurt; we are His feet, going to places of need; we are His mouth, voicing words of healing and truth; and we are His ears, listening to stories of pain. Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34, NIV).
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He said loving God with all you are is first, but loving your neighbor is second (see Matthew 22:37-39). That includes loving your enemies (see Matthew 5:43-44). It is a divine mandate to love people with the love of Jesus—even the worst of people. Romans 5 tells us that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (v. 5). That means that love ought to then flow from our hearts.
4. Jesus loves people through us responsibly. Even though Mark 10 says Jesus loved the rich young ruler, it was not a sappy love of sentimentality. Jesus confronted the man with his failure, told him what was keeping him from God, and told him what he had to do to follow Him (see v. 21). This was responsible and mature love.
Love doesn't turn a blind eye to every behavior in the name of tolerance. Love sometimes confronts, instructs, and refuses—and it is always honest. Both knowledge (knowing what love is and isn't) and discernment (knowing right from wrong) help you choose the right expression of love for the right person at the right time. So who will you reach out to and show love to today?