I wonder how many self-help books have been written to try to help people learn how to love each other? Isn’t that what all those books are really about that are written on topics like marriage, dating, conflict resolution, parenting, and interpersonal relationships?
In the New Testament, we find a group of people who didn’t need to read any how-to books on love. The Thessalonians had already learned their lesson. The apostle Paul wrote to them, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
God is certainly qualified to teach lessons on love. Who would know more about what love is? He is the definition of it! “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Among the many wonderful lessons we can learn from our heavenly Father, consider these on the nature of love:
- Love is sacrificial. God gave His only begotten Son out of love for us (John 3:16). This supreme sacrifice surely teaches us that love is sacrificial by nature. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). If we say that we love, but are unwilling to sacrifice, we haven’t learned what love is. In 1 John 3:17-18, the apostle John said, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
- Love is merciful. Ephesians 2:4 states that “God…is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” God’s love for us is the reason He is merciful to us – blessing and forgiving us. Jesus commanded, “Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
- Love is unconditional. It is natural to love those that love us, but it is Supernatural to love those that hate us. This is the love that God teaches. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).
- Unconditional love can be critical. Unconditional love does not equal uncritical love. Sometimes love demands that we point out the faults of those whom we love. We learn this from Jesus Himself, who told the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” If we truly care for another person, we will say and do all that we can to keep them on the right path.
Learning to love means learning to sacrifice for others, to show mercy, to love the unlovable, and to correct those who need correcting. Have you learned your lesson?