"God is love," 1 Jn.4:16. He has demonstrated His love to us in the giving of his Son Jesus, Jn.3:16, Rom.5:8, 1 Jn.4:9. He in turn reasonably expects that we love Him in return. This is true under both the Old and the New Testaments. In Deut.6:5, Moses commanded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul. and with all your strength." In Matt.22:37,38, Jesus answered the lawyers’ question saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." and of course the second was "love your neighbor as yourself." The importance of love in the church and in the lives of Christians can never be overestimated. The love that God expects to find in our lives is love that can be commanded, He commands it. The problem is that love is a word in the world that gets way overused without stopping to define what it means. We most often associate love with romantic love, but we recognize family love and brotherly love as well. These are things we associate with love. Some in the world also associate tolerance for sin with love and a lack of tolerance for sin is seen as lack of love. The real question we need to ask is what does God most associate with love? To answer this question we need to look to Jesus. We need to learn to love ‘the Jesus Way’.
Jesus is God's expression of love to us and Jesus teaches us what it really means to love. Jesus taught what it means to love God by the example of His life. In Jn.14:31 Jesus said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. ..." God sent Jesus to live and to die for mankind so that mankind could have our sins forgiven. Yet there were things about this that were difficult even for Jesus. He was "sorrowful" at the prospect of the cross. He prayed "let this cup pass from Me:" but then He added "not as I will, but as you will." Matt.26:38,39, Jesus taught us that love for God means obeying God at all costs, no matter what! "As the Father gave me commandment, so I do" is the most basic principle of love given by Jesus.
The night before his crucifixion Jesus was very careful to so define love that there would be no mistake about what He meant when He commanded love. In Jn.14:15 Jesus said, "If you love Me, Keep My commandments." This is love the Jesus way. As Jesus' love for the Father was manifested by his obedience to the Father’s commands, so Jesus expects us to understand that our love for Him will be manifested by our obedience to His commands. Amazingly Jesus will not let this go, He continues to press the point. In Jn.14:21, Jesus pursues, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me..." This is love the Jesus way. We can identify love in our own lives and in the lives of others by asking this question 'do we keep his commandments or are we constantly looking for a way around them. In Jn.14:23, He says, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word..." This is love the Jesus way. Now Jesus moves beyond commandment and says we need to keep His "word", not just His commandments but his word. Jesus' most basic teaching tools were His life and His word. We need to keep and respect the message of both if we love God, if we love Jesus.
But Jesus is not finished teaching what love means. In Jn.15:10, He said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." This is love ‘the Jesus way’. We understand that God loves us, and that Jesus loves us, but Jesus clearly says that to abide in his love we must keep His commandments. All of this is taught the night before His death. Even then Jesus knew there was more to say that could not be said just then, in Jn.16:12,13. He said, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth;.." The Holy Spirit did come and did guide the apostles and prophets into all truth. We have that truth today in the scriptures, the inspired word of God. So Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 14:37 "...the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." To love God and love Jesus we have to keep all the words and commandments not only as spoken by Jesus but as written by the Lord’s apostles and prophets. There are none we can disobey or ignore or downgrade as of lesser importance and still demonstrate love to God or love to the world.
Approximately 30 years later, the apostle John is still teaching the same message Jesus taught about love. In 1 Jn. 2:3-5 we read, "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
Keeping the commandments and word of Jesus is so important. We are branded a liar if we say we know Him and yet do not keep His commandments. The love of God, the kind of love God expects to find in our lives is perfected in our lives as we keep his word. John further defines what God means when he commands love, in 1 Jn.5:2-3, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
Loving God and keeping His commandments are a matched pair, trying to have one without the other is of no use, is probably impossible and would be only half of what God expects of our lives. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. We are sadly mistaken if we think we can love God, or our neighbors, or our brethren, or our families without keeping His word, His commandments. Loving the Jesus way means keeping and obeying the commands and teaching of the New Testament, this is the love that God expects to find in our lives.
Listen to John one more time, 2 Jn. 6, ‘This is love that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” Loving God, Loving Jesus, Loving our brethren, Loving our neighbors, Loving our enemies, all involve finding out what God has taught, and then obeying what He has taught. This is love the Jesus way. Without obedience to the word of God there is no love. When people think they can do whatever they want, without obeying God and that things will all be okay because God is love, mercy and grace, they are living and teaching a message of no love.
All of this leads us back in a big circle to Jesus’ words in John 13:34,35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
People in the world who are not Christians love one another. Parents love their children, children love their parents. Patriots love their country. Social activists love the poor and the downtrodden. Does their love mean that they are all Christians? If love in general is the defining mark of a Christian then are we not forced to admit that all who love, at least according to their own definition, are Christians? The answer to this is no! Because the love that Jesus was speaking of here is not love in general, is not a love defined by man. The love that defines Christians is love as Jesus defined it in the following chapters of the book of John. John14:15,21,23,31 and John15:10,12-14. The love by which all will know we are Christ’s disciples is the love of obeying and keeping the words and commands of Jesus as delivered to mankind in the writings and teachings of His apostles and prophets. When we love ‘the Jesus way’ all will know that we are the disciples of Jesus.
All of this is especially true in the Lord’s church, “purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28.
We must live and and teach a message of love "the Jesus Way". In a very practical way when we take the Lord's church and turn it into a playground for the ideas and entertainment of man we are practicing and teaching a doctrine of no love, at least not love "the Jesus Way".
Oh! The pain and the hurt that God’s people and Christ’s church are subjected to when love ‘the Jesus way’ is not practiced and love in the way of the world is substituted.
Historically, restoration in the church has been practiced because some wanted unity, because others wanted Christians to be holy and separate from the world. I believe we should practice restoration so that we can love God and love one another ‘the Jesus way’. We will never have the love that Jesus had or the love that God wants us to have without going back to the scriptures for everything we do in faith and practice as Christians. Let us love God and love one another ‘the Jesus way’.