John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another . As I have loved you, so you must love one another . 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another ." NIV
Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and then gave us a new command. That command is to love one another. Our love for one another should be evident and allow others to know that we are indeed disciples of Christ. But what is love? What does it mean to love on another?
Of course the greatest definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. There we see pure love. We find that no matter how great our service is to the Lord, if it is done without love it means nothing. The attributes of love are explained in this chapter and it ends by saying that now three gifts remain, faith, hope and love and “the greatest of these is love.” Let us look at what love is according to the Word of God.
1 Cor 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. NIV
Most people understand that to love means that we should be patient and kind, not self-seeking or angered. They realize that they should not hold grudges, be envious, boastful or proud. While we all fail to love as purely as we may desire to, we are able to recognize what love should be. But look at verse six. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Do we truly understand that part of love?
Christians are often concerned with unity within the church, and rightly so, for the Word of God wants us to be unified. However, unity at the cost of truth, is not what the Scripture is teaching. Consider the following passage:
Eph 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all...11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. NIV
There is a prevalent misconception that unity means to keep the peace without regard to truth or substance. This, however, is not what Paul is talking about when he admonishes the church to be unified. Unity means that something has been agreed upon “unanimously.” So the question must be, what are we to be unified about? Paul tells us in the passage above. We are to “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.” There is only one correct faith, one God, one body, one baptism, etc. for only one doctrine can be true. We are supposed to be united in the same faith and knowledge of Jesus. So as Christians we should agree unanimously about our faith; i.e. who Jesus is, what He teaches, how He offers salvation. All those things are relevant to our unity. To be united under the title of Christian without regard for how each person defines what it means to be a Christian is not Biblical unity. Christians should be united in substance, not in name only.
If we are to be unified in our faith, we must be willing and able to point out the errors of those who have an incorrect teaching regarding faith and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Remember, love rejoices with the truth and it is a loving thing to bring someone out of error and into that truth. It is loving, not divisive, to correct someone when they are wrong. In Galatians we are told to gently restore a brother when he sins (Gal 6:1). Timothy was told not only to preach the gospel, but to patiently correct and rebuke and encourage (2 Tim 4:2). In the body of Christ we not only have the permission to correct false teachers, we are instructed to do so. The only stipulation is that we are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
The Bible talks often about love and truth. We are not to love with words only, “but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).” Peter addresses specifically how obeying the truth allows us to love our brothers. If we do not have a grasp on the truth, we do not have a grasp on love. Without truth, love is incomplete.
1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. NIV
We have been purified by obeying the truth so that we can sincerely love our brothers. Obeying the truth was necessary in being able to love one another deeply from the heart. Without the truth, the love lacks meaning. Let us not forget, Jesus IS the way, the truth, and the life.
So what does it mean to love one another? It means to be patient, kind, not envious, boastful or proud. We should not be rude, self-seeking or easily angered and we should keep no records of wrongs. It also means that we do not delight in (or even tolerate) evil. Instead we rejoice in the truth. Love always protects and to share the truth about false teaching protects others from being led astray. Love always hopes, always trusts and always perseveres. It never fails.
Sometimes we may fail at sharing the truth in love, but sometimes the truth is just hard to hear, no matter how gently it is stated. Sometimes we may not always love purely, but Christians must realize that their brothers and sisters who are dedicated to exposing false doctrines are doing so out of love. They are not trying to divide, but trying to unite the body under the bond of peace. They desire for every Christian to realize the importance of understanding correctly who it is that Jesus is, for that knowledge can be the difference between death and life.
Calling oneself a Christian does not make it so. Just because an organization or building has the name Christian on it, does not mean it represents the faith taught in the Bible. That word alone does not guarantee that they have the correct knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must be vigilant to make sure that those whom we love know the truth. To ignore the truth for the benefit of “getting along” is not exercising Biblical unity and love.
Jesus said that if you hold to his teaching you are really his disciples, for then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Freedom does not come from teaching or believing false doctrines. Our website was created out of love and it is our prayer that those who have been exposed to error will be set free by the truth found in Christ Jesus. Be noble, like the Bereans, and test everyone against the Scriptures to make sure that what they are teaching is true (Acts 17:11), for only the truth will set you free.
We should love one another and sharing the truth of God's message is a loving thing to do. Peter, John, Paul and Jesus himself warned of false prophets, admonished false teachers, and corrected those who were in error. They did this out of love and concern for them, and we should do the same.
What is love? The Word of God answers that better than any man could dare to try.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love : not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. NIV
Let us honor that love by being united in the true faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.