New Testament Love
Rev. Vidar Ligard is the founder and director of Safari Mission, an organization that focuses on training leaders and transforming lives in East Africa. In 2006, Vidar with his wife Cathrine pioneered what today is Rhema Bible Training College Kenya, which has 8 branches. He has worked 13 years with Kenneth Hagin Ministries in USA, and is a graduate of Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible Training College. Vidar also received a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering as well as a Master in Business Administration from Oral Roberts University. In addition to teaching and training ministers and leaders, Vidar also ministers internationally at churches and conferences. He lives in Nairobi together with his wife Cathrine and three daughters. Visit www.safarimission.org and www.rhemakenya.org for more information, or reach Vidar and Cathrine at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the world and even in the Church today, there are different thoughts on what real love is. The world usually thinks of love as a strong feeling of affection. Many dictionaries will also agree that love is a warm or strong feeling of affection.
Biblical love is quite different.
Jesus often defined and described this real love.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
Jesus did not tell the disciples to go and live according to the old Mosaic commandment, but rather he gave them a new commandment. In other words, we will not find the model for this love in the Old Testament.
Many Christians misunderstand love, and think that avoiding any ill words or actions prove that they are walking in love. We often think that as long as we don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, and otherwise follow the Old Covenant — we are fulfilling what God wants us to do.
But Jesus had a higher calling in mind.
Bible scholars define real love as “Love, whether used of God or man, is an earnest and anxious desire for and an active and beneficent interest in the well-being of the one loved.” (ISBE)
Real Love is Active
Because this love is different, Jesus not only gave us this new commandment, but had to practically show us what this love is like. He said “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
“For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
New Testament love is active. When we were sinners, God did something for us. Sitting passive and idle and claiming to feel love for someone isn’t Godly love. Godly love will always take action. When God loved us, he did something for us.
Loving the Unlovable
Christian love is shown regardless of the other person’s behavior.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).
So often I hear of Christians who have had a conflict, and one party will explain how they have forgiven, but they will have nothing to do with the other person. This isn’t love. Love will take an active part in the well-being of the other person.
Often, in my own life, when ill feelings towards others start to show, I have made it a practice of praying for those people, asking God to bless and to prosper them. And I have found that when I consistently pray for people, even feelings will change to where I want them to do well in life.
Jesus Even Goes Further
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt 5:23-24).
Here, it is not just about us having forgiven the other party. But if the other party has something against us, it is our responsibility to initiate action, go to them and do something in order that the relationship be fully reconciled. In a difficult relationship, the one who initiates reconciliation will almost always be the more mature person.
There are many cases where I could sense another had something against me, or there might be a relationship that used to be closer, but over time has drifted apart. Often, I will initiate contact with these people, maybe do something for them, or at the least speak words that assure them I am still their friend. This habit has saved many relationships and often brought restoration. Living life as a peacemaker is a wonderful life.
Real love isn’t about how we feel. It is about having a genuine interest in doing what is best for the well-being of the other person.
Christian love is not refraining from retaliation when someone does us wrong. Christian love will respond by forgiving, praying for and doing good to the other person who has done us wrong.
When we learn this live according to this pattern, we become Christ-like, our lives are full of peace, and we will also reap what we sow in this area.