“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” I John 4:7
As children of God, we are commanded to love one another. If it were simply a matter of liking one another, then our obedience would easily be fulfilled. The commandment to love, however, is more difficult to accomplish.
What is the difference between liking and loving a person?
The two concepts are not degrees of the same thing. To like somebody is something instinctive and elemental; it does not necessitate effort; it comes naturally and is dependent to a large degree upon the physical senses and outward appearances.
The word “love” has sadly been debased and misused in modern parlance, often being associated with infatuation. But love is something that must be thought of in terms of God, because the Bible tells us that God is love.
Love is a highly intelligent process. In contrast to liking somebody, love is not driven by instinct or natural responses, but operates at a higher level. It is determined to go beyond the superficial, infiltrating the inner person, to dig into something deeper and of more value. Love overcomes obstacles and excuses, overlooks the superficial unattractiveness, in order to behold the person behind the imperfections.
We employ our mental faculties, as an act of the will, to love even the people we do not like; we treat them as if we do like them, and choose to act with kindness towards them in spite of our natural feelings. It is an act of obedience.
And yet there is more to love. As the apostle John asserts: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how can the love of God abide in him?” I John 3:17
Love drives us out of our seat of theorizing and romanticism, to do something about easing the pain of our fellowman. By its very nature love must express itself, not in words, but in actions.
Such are the salient attributes of love, and the reason we are commanded to love one another is because love is of God. And love is the litmus test of our being born of God, of our knowing God, and of our passing from death unto life.
** Reference: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ, Crossway:Wheaton, Illinois, 1982, pp. 357-366.
** Photograph: On Golden Pond by Artemis