This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
As Christians we are very familiar with this command. It is followed in Scripture by “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (vs 13) And it is easy to imagine such a love for friends or family. Heck, even the world does this. But is that really the depth of this deeply important commandment? Would Christ have us lay down our lives for people we don’t know, let alone don’t like? Surely His directive for us extends beyond those we feel love towards.
In fact, Christ Himself said, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (Matthew 5:43-46 emphasis mine)
The word in verse 13 is the Greek word agape, which we translate into love. This word, it seems, we are very familiar with hearing. But rarely do we take a look at what the root of the word means. It comes from the word agapao, which has a VASTLY different definition than we would normally ascribe to the word love. It is this word (agapao) that appears in verse 12.
Strong’s defines agapao as “to love (in a social or moral sense),” there is not mention of feelings or emotion, why? I believe that it is because we are not supposed to wait to feel love in order to show and act upon love.
Agapao is a love of the head rather than of emotions such as phileo (“to be a friend, that is to have affection for”). Agapao is a love of conscious choice. It is a willful act to take notice and care and show concern for one another. This is not a feeling, this is an ACTION! We are not to wait until we feel the love, we are to act! It matters not if we want to care, we are COMMANDED by Christ Himself to do so!
In John’s gospel Christ tells us, “if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I keep my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10, emphasis mine) The Greek word for abide is meno, which Strong’s defines as “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): - abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), X thine own” (emphasis mine)
So, we see that we must follow the commandments of the Lord in order to remain in His love. It does not matter if our flesh wants to do it, we have been commanded by God Himself to do as we are told. Then, and only then, will we be present in His love, and the more we are in His love the more grace we will have and be better able to follow His commandments.
Following God’s will, when it goes against our fleshy desires, is very difficult. So how do we gain the strength to submit to God when our flesh wants to scream? We pray. Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” How do we approach the throne? We pray, we study His word, we seek God’s will, and when we are able to discern what His will is we submit to it NO MATTER WHAT. And it is in doing this that we will obtain grace and mercy. It is in choosing to lay down our worldly desires that God will give us the strength to follow His commandments, but we must choose! When we have done that, when we reject our selfish desires for God’s desire and walk in His commandments we can experience a peace, a rest, that the world could never understand.
When we do God’s will, and reject everything that is contrary to that, life becomes more simple. We find we don’t have to fill our days with things that the world does, we become released from the chaos that the world experiences. When we reject the world and do God’s will, including loving the people we don’t like, we are able to draw closer in to God we are able to find more time for God. Christ has freed us from the bondage of the world. No longer do we have to love only those who are good to us, no longer do we have to have pity parties for ourselves because someone wasn’t nice to us, no longer do we have to walk through life with a joy that is dependent upon outside circumstances to exist, no longer do we have to be separated from God’s eternal rest! Seek! Submit! And experience the peace you long for.