Love One Another – Here’s how – John 15:12-16

Love One Another
Photo by: Dawn (Creative Commons)

Love one another — it’s a command we’ve noted many times before. Jesus commands His followers to love one another. We hear it again today in the passage before us in John 15:12-16. And at first glance, when you hear the command you might have one of two reactions.

Date: January 29, 2012
Title: Love One Another – Here’s how
Scripture: John 15:12-16
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont, Higgins Lake Baptist Church
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http://www.archive.org/download/HowAreWeToLoveOneAnother/01-29-2012am-john15_12-16-kap.mp3

The first reaction might be, “no problem, I love my friends. I love my family. I don’t have any trouble loving those people dearest to me.”

The second reaction might be, “well, that’s impossible. I can’t do that. Some people just can’t be loved.” 

Both reactions I think are fairly common. Both reactions are actually the way the world around us understands love. The world thinks of love in terms of feelings. The world basis their love on what feels good. You can hear it in statements like:

“It was love at first sight.” 

“We just fell in love.” 

You also hear it in statements like this:

“We just fell out of love.” or;

“I don’t feel like I can love that person any more.”

We need to see today that Jesus has something far different in mind when He commands that followers love one another. Look at the text, and let’s be careful that we don’t gravitate toward one of those two natural ways of thinking. Jesus says:

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Did you note how different this is from the world’s way of thinking about love?

First note the commandment given in verse 12. Then we’ll see four ways Jesus describes the kind of love He commands.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 

We noted it last time, that Jesus is giving His disciples the instruction that they must abide with Him, and His Word must abide in them and that abiding, more specifically, looks like obedience to the teaching of Jesus. Then Jesus says back in verse 10, If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Now Jesus says in verse 12, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. So love is commanded. And in no way is Jesus connecting love for one another with your feelings. There may be great feeling in your love for others but the kind of love which Jesus speaks of here isn’t based on feelings. 

Charles Swindoll says of this:

The Greek word here is not the fickle eros, or even the heartfelt philia, but agape. Agape often involves deep feeling, but it begins with a decision. Agape doesn’t consider merit and doesn’t wait for inspiration. Agape is the kind of love exemplified by God, especially in relationship with His Son. Moreover, the tense of the verb is present, which suggests repeated or ongoing action: “keep loving one another.” The quality of that love must be the same kind as the love we receive from Christ. He is our example and our standard. (Swindoll, Charles R. (2010-05-26). Insights on John (p. 243). Zondervan.)

Now that’s a very important distinction we need to make as we move further into the text. What Jesus is commanding here of believers is that they love one another, and remember that this love is to begin with your brothers and sisters in Christ and then it’s to move from there to those who are in the world, those who need Christ. But Jesus is not speaking of the kind of love that’s based on how you feel about those around you. 

This is love that’s based on a decision to obey. So a believer might think this way, “I’ll love that person — as unlovable as they are at times — based not on my feelings but based on my love for Christ and a desire to please Him and obey Him.” 

And that believer might think of love this way. “I’m going to keep loving that person. Just as Christ has loved me, and keeps loving me — in spite of myself, even though I’m not always lovable, because I still sin against God — but I’m going to love, like Jesus loves me.”

Does anyone see a problem with that? This is easy to practice right? No, it’s not is it?

Now let’s admit it — that kind of love is not natural to our way of thinking. This is not the kind of thinking we naturally bring to our relationships, because what we naturally gravitate toward in our relationships is a self centered kind of love. 

That’s why as a kid in school, when you were sweet on someone, you asked a friend to ask the other person of they liked you. Or you passed them a note which said, “Do you love me? Check yes or no.” 

Why did you do that? Because you didn’t want your feelings hurt. You wanted your love returned in the same way in which you gave it. Your love was self centered — naturally so.

So what should this kind of love look like in a believer?

But the kind of love Jesus commands is part of the new nature, the new nature we receive when we trust in Christ. So even though this might not be the first kind of love we’re drawn to in and of ourselves, this is a love we can grow in if we take steps to obey the commands of Christ. 

And to help us understand this kind of love Jesus describes it for us in four ways.

This kind of love is self sacrificing. Note verse 13 where Jesus says.

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 

Though at the time, the disciples don’t see this, certainly Jesus has in mind here the kind of love He is about to demonstrate when He is crucified. There’s no greater demonstration of love than the sacrifice of Christ for sinners. 

Later, as verse 26 points to here in John 15, the Holy Spirit would bear witness about the Son and no doubt this example would be very clear then. Just as it’s clear to us now. Jesus is the greatest example of laying down one’s life for His friends. 

Giving one’s life for another is an incredible demonstration of love. But it’s not likely that you will be called on to give your life for any of the ones God commands you to love. But what He is calling you to is still something you aren’t prone to do unless you understand that this is also an expression of your love for God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

And out of love for Christ and following His example you will put others first — you will be willing to sacrifice self for the good of others and that’s not easy but that leads us to another defining characteristic of the kind of love Jesus commands.

This kind of love is shaped by obedience. 

Jesus says…

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

But note that your obedience doesn’t make you a friend of Christ. No, your obedience gives evidence that you are a friend of Christ. In other words, your obedience gives evidence that you belong to Christ and that you are committed to fulfilling His aims. 

So you love one another not because its easy, but because you are Christ’s and you are about the business of Christ. You love because you’ve made the mission of Christ your mission. You love because you want to please your Savior. 

This kind of love is also informed through fellowship with Christ.

Note in verse 15 that the wisdom of God is made known to those who are Christ’s.  

15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 

A servant isn’t given the wisdom of the master; no inside information like a friend would share with a friend. No, a servant is expected to serve without such privileged information. 

Not so for those who are in Christ. Those who are Christ’s, Jesus has called friends, and to them He reveals the truths of the kingdom of God. 

That’s why we’re to read God’s Word and do so with faith — because as we do, God opens our hearts and minds to understand that truth.

How gracious of God to give His children the indwelling presence of God the  Holy Spirit. And you and I need the Spirit of God and those truths of God shaping our hearts and minds if we’re going to learn to love one another in obedience to the command of Christ. This is why those who don’t know Christ can’t truly love like Christ. But His followers can love like Christ, because they are informed by His Word and the Spirit of God. And this relay is our fellowship with Christ.

There’s one more characteristic of the love which Jesus commands. 

This kind of love is motivated by the mission of Christ. 

It’s not about our mission, it’s about His mission.

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Note that those who are followers of Christ were chosen for the purpose of fruit bearing and that this fruit is abiding fruit, which points to the fruit of souls who trust Christ. This is the fruit that abides, this is the fruit that remains. And that’s the purpose for which Christ came. So that many would be saved from their sins. 

So it follows that this is also what followers of Christ are to be about. We’re to be about His mission. We are to be about living in such a way that souls are saved. And Jesus says the way in which we are to live is to be defined by our love for one another. How critical this is.

Because we may witness to sinners in many ways, but there’s really no more powerful witness to the love of Christ for sinners than this — when God’s children love one another.

As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:1, with this sobering truth, that we may speak with the tongues of men and of angels, — we may be able to share the Gospel, and we may have learned helpful methods for sharing the Gospel — but if we have not love, we’re just noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.