Love people. Who knew such a short statement could open up so many questions, excuses, or justifications for our hearts?
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Love God. Love people. It all rolls up into those two things. But what does loving your neighbor as yourself actually look like? Have you ever heard or said the phrase “I love you, but I don’t have to like you?” Or even worse, “love the sinner, hate the sin?” These phrases feel like shortcuts to the real love Jesus calls us to.
Like us, Jesus lived in a divided world. Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Romans, Pharisees and government workers, men and women, and all thought their way was superior. And yet, Jesus asked them to let go of their ways, set aside their judgment, and follow Him. He knew if they could genuinely experience unity and love despite their differences, it would say something powerful about who He was.
In John 17:20–23, we catch a glimpse of why Jesus called us to this kind of radical love:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
His prayer is powerfully profound, something we desperately need to pursue. He prays for unity, claiming that the world will know who He is and what His love is like through our love.
Does our church look unified? Do denominations look unified? Do churches across the nation and globe look unified? Does your small group or serving team look unified? Does your family look unified?
Sadly, more often than not, the answer is no.
Loving people and pursuing unity does not mean complete agreement or uniformity. It is the hard work of setting aside your agenda or perspective, leaning in, learning from others, and valuing the image of God that is in each person. Then you open the door to the power of community that we see in Acts 2, where needs are met, and caring is contagious.
As you go through this week, ask God to show you areas where you can grow in loving people. Maybe that means taking a next step and joining a group so you can experience the beauty and power of community!