It’s one thing to tell people what they should do; it’s another to show them. Jesus did both. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
Jesus Christ not only taught us to love our enemies; he showed us what love for enemies looks like when he died to bear the penalty our sins deserved. “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10).
Jesus also exalted love as a key identity marker for those who follow him. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (john 13:35).
The love Jesus Christ showed for us was in his willingness to lay down his life for us. “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus said, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus is the one “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5).
This sacrificial love is the primary consideration in how we treat others. The Bible repeatedly calls us to treat others as those for whom Christ died. The foremost ethical guide for our relationships is the example of the sacrificial death of Jesus. If Jesus died for someone, how should I treat that person?
Consider some examples
- “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
- “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).
- “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” (Rom. 14:15)
Receive it before you give it
This kind of love is only possible if you have first experienced God’s love for you in Christ. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. … We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:10,19).
“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” (John 3:16).