February has arrived, topping off the Winter with some love. It’s the shortest month of the year, and it gets an extra day every four years; but it’s best known for being the month of romance. Naturally, when someone thinks about February they’re more inclined to think about Valentine’s Day, or if they’re single, Singles Awareness Day. However, while February is stereotypically the month of love, romantic love is not the only type of love we need to be focused on.
The Bible says a lot about love, teaching about the holy covenant between husband and wife, about the loving fear one should have of God, about how the fruits of the Spirit go hand-in-hand with love, and about neighborly love. The very book itself is a manifestation of God’s love for us, a way for us to have a relationship with Him. John 15:12-13 says,
“12This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Verse 12 really could not be more straightforward—we are to love one another as Jesus loved us, with a Christ-like love. Jesus is not talking about the kind of love you might see in a Cary Grant romance-movie, with a handsome hero and a damsel in distress (ladies). A Christ-like love is patient and kind, slow to anger, quick to encourage, never boasting, but always uplifting; it serves and sacrifices, bears, and believes all things (1 Corinthians 13), and Scripture gives us many examples.
When Jesus went somewhere, his first priority was not his friends or the popular crowd (i.e. the Pharisees and the wealthy.) He first approached the sick, the poor, the despised, the criminals, the tax collectors, and even the Romans. In his last days, he washed his disciples’ feet. Can you imagine Queen Elizabeth II knocking on your door and offering to clean your feet? The Creator of the Universe—who demolished Sodom and Gomorrah, parted the Red Sea, and made the sun stand still—washed the feet of fishermen and tax collectors along with washing away the sins of the world. Soon after, Jesus died on a cross, the most brutal form of execution and torture, to save the eternal lives of people who forgot, betrayed, and denied him, along with those who would do the same in the future. This really is the greatest love, and we as sinful humans are literally incapable of loving like this. However, the Holy Spirit sanctifies and empowers us to express Christ-like love to those around us, and we can grow in grace as we grow in him.
So what does Christ-like love look like for someone in the modern era? God calls us to be patient, gentle, selfless, honest, friends, servants, and encouragers. Perhaps there’s a new classmate, co-worker, or church-goer that you might befriend; maybe there’s an atheist you know of who you love and care for despite your differences; maybe that means helping your mother carry in groceries or helping that sibling with homework; it might manifest itself in academic integrity (being honest to others—including teachers—and honoring another’s work is an often overlooked form of neighborly love); perhaps you offer to babysit that family’s children free of charge because you know they are struggling financially. The point is this: there are endless ways and opportunities of showing Christ-like love. It may be something big or one of the little things, but they are all important. They are all manifestations of God’s grace: his love growing in and through us.
He loved us first, so now we can love others the way He loves.