Note: This is the sixth and final article in a series entitled “The Five Investments.” Previous articles are always available at http://www.webbweekly.com.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, He replaced the second greatest command with a new command: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. John 13:34-35
In the old command, we were directed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In the new command, we are directed to love one another as Jesus loved us. In doing so, Jesus greatly amplified the command to love.
Who is One Another?
When Jesus commanded them to love their neighbor, the question was, “Who is my neighbor?” See Luke 10:25-37. In response, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. It seems fair then for us to ask, “Who is one another?”
The English one another is translated from the Greek allelon. It is a reciprocal pronoun. Reciprocal can mean given by each side, but it can also mean given or done in return for something else. Jesus clarifies the meaning of reciprocal by letting us know we are to love allelon in return for what He has already done for us—not for what they have done or will do for us.
Loving allelon isn’t about getting something in return from them. No, it’s about loving others because Jesus has already fully loved us. That’s really important to remember because loving allelon isn’t easy – especially when the people we love bite us in return.
Specifically, though, who is allelon? The answer: anyone who isn’t me—and that means everyone.
We ask, “But how? How can I offer love to allelon when they are so wrong or so messed up or so repulsive or so sinful? Won’t my loving them risk communicating that I approve of their sin?” It’s a big concern that keeps a lot of self-justifying religious people from obeying Jesus’ new command.
We need to ask ourselves, “Is that what happened when God expressed His love to us, sinners? Did we see His demonstration of love as an approval of our sinfulness?” Of course not. His demonstration of selfless love actually helped us to see our sin and condemnation and our need of a Savior. Real love softens our hearts so we can see ourselves more clearly.
Paul reminds us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. God expressed His love for us when we were still sinners. Did He take the risk to do so?
He certainly did. He knew that some would reject His love and that others would take advantage of it or twist it to justify themselves. He knew some would hate it and even fight against it—but He loved us anyway.
It is the high risk of offering grace—and He offered it knowing full well the risk He was taking. From the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Even as He was dying on a cross we nailed Him to, Jesus continued to pour out grace. Amazing.
It must be awful for God to watch us withhold His love and grace from allelon in an effort to protect the grace He risked so much to give. We who have received boundless grace resist passing that grace on to allelon for fear of what they might do with it. It makes no sense at all, yet grace protection continues to be one of the greatest sins of self-justifying Christians.
My friends, our job is to pass the grace of love on to allelon, and what allelon does with that grace is not our concern. Why?
First, because God is the only Lawgiver and Judge. See James 4:12, Romans 14, Matthew 7:1-6. Even referring to allelon as sinners (love the sinner, hate the sin) puts us in a precarious position. It is not our role to judge allelon; instead, it is our responsibility to love allelon as freely as God loved us. See Matthew 10:18.
Second, because we know without a doubt that we are sinners. If we claim we aren’t, we accuse God of being a liar. See 1 John 1:8-10.
Jesus warned us about the wooden beam in our own eye. See Matthew 7:3-5. Instead of worrying over what allelon does, we would be far better served to take a hard look at what we do. It’s likely we’re the ones who are actually taking advantage of God’s grace.
Third, because it is not our role to convict allelon of sin. That job is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and, yes, love. See John 16:1-15 and Hebrews 4:12. Instead of trying to convict allelon, maybe we need to consider more carefully the sins God is convicting us of—and our shameless ability to utterly ignore it.
Maybe we need to confess that our desire to keep the attention on the sinners and their sins is really an effort to keep the attention off us and our sins – that our piety is nothing more than stinking religious hypocrisy.
Maybe we need to confess that our sin, no matter how common or acceptable it may seem to us, is still dirty, rotten, stinking sin in the eyes of our supremely holy and pure God.
And maybe we need to confess that we withhold love from allelon, not because we’re trying to protect God’s grace, but because we just don’t want to love or be around certain kinds of people.
Maybe we just need to confess, and be broken, and love allelon wholeheartedly because Jesus first loved us. Maybe then the world would know we belong to Jesus.