As we continue our series on how to love one another, it’s important to point out that we have a tendency to think about “love” as something we feel, but the Bible speaks of “love” as something we do. Because love is something we do, it can be clearly seen through a person’s actions; and by contrast, a lack of love can be clearly seen through a person’s actions. Let’s talk about how love means doing good to others.
Love is Not a Feeling
When we hear Jesus tell his disciples, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (22:39) or “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), what do we think he means by that? Do we think he means, have a warm and sentimental feeling in your heart? If so, how could we possibly feel that way about people we don’t know? Even harder, how could we feel that way about people who have intentionally done us harm?
For that matter, no one tends to have complete control over their emotions. Our emotions are almost always tied, at least to some extent, to our circumstances. In other words, we feel a certain way because of what has happened in our lives, not necessarily because we’ve made a conscious decision to feel that way.
If someone hates you and is trying to kill you, it would be unreasonable for Jesus to tell you to feel affectionate toward that person. But in spite of how you feel about that person, Jesus does expect you to love them.
Love is Action
Not only is love more than a feeling, it is also more than words. In 1 John 3:16-18, we read:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Consider the implications of that passage. Whether or not we love others is determined not by our words, but by our “deeds.” Specifically, the deeds by which love is determined is selfless acts of meeting the needs of others. We measure love by looking to Jesus; because he laid down his life for us, “we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” And if we are willing to die for each other, we are also willing to give anything we have for each other.
This is why, in the Bible, the phrase most closely associated with the command to “love” is the command to “do good.” We are told:
- do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)
- do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
- do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
- do good, be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share (1 Timothy 6:18)
- do good and share what you have (Hebrews 13:16)
Loving people means doing good to them. It means using whatever we have to meet their needs. If they are hungry, we feed them. If they are thirsty, we give them something to drink. If they are lonely, we visit them.
Love Your Enemies
This is how we can love our enemies. We may not be able to feel sentimental or affectionate about people who are doing us harm, but we can certainly do good and not harm to them. Take some time and really listen to Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-36.
Jesus tells his disciples to love those who:
- hate them (vs. 27)
- curse them (vs. 28)
- abuse them (vs. 28)
- strike them (vs. 29)
- steals from them (vs. 29-30)
Jesus’ instructions do not have anything to do with the way we feel about those who hate, curse, abuse, and strike us. Our love for them is determined by whether or not we:
- bless them (vs. 28)
- pray for them (vs. 28)
- give to them (vs. 29-30)
- do good to them (vs. 33)
- lend to them (vs. 34)
- show them mercy (vs. 36)
It is all about how you treat your enemies. Do you, like those in the world, hurt your enemies? Or do you live as one of Jesus’ disciples, blessing and giving to your enemies?
Paul captures what love for enemies is all about when he says:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Love actively does good and not harm.
Do Good to All People
Love is pretty simple and can be summed up by this proverb, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).
But, we might ask, to whom is it due? The proverb says to do good to whom it is due, but surely it is not due everyone, is it? This is exactly the sort of question a man asked Jesus in Luke 10:25-37, as they discussed the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The man wanted to know, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the man a parable about a loving and merciful Samaritan. Jesus concluded by saying, “Go, and do likewise.”
Our marching orders are simple: Love your neighbor. Your neighbor is everyone you meet and loving them means doing whatever is in your power to help them and serve them. We do this not in an effort to save ourselves, but because we’ve been transformed by Jesus. We do this because Jesus loves us and has done everything within his power to help us and serve us. He has transformed us, through his love and through his Spirit, into people for whom love is an action word.
I love you and God loves you,