Raising the Bar

So far in our study of being a church that looks like Jesus, we’ve seen some biblical principles to guide us on the journey:

  • First of all, we have to make every effort to maintain our unity (Ephesians 4:3). The church is made up of different kinds of people and it is very easy to divide ourselves racially, financially, educationally, chronologically, and doctrinally. Our tendency is to want to be with people like us, so we have to make an effort to insure that we stay unified in the Spirit so that peace can be maintained.
  • Secondly, everything we do as a congregation must be done to glorify God and to build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26). If it’s something commanded, we do it. If it’s a tradition that helps us develop and maintain the faith of the church, we hang onto it. If it’s a tradition that has outlived its usefulness and no longer builds up the church, we discard it.
  • Thirdly, we develop the mind of Christ, always considering others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-5). When we start to think like Jesus, we will begin to act like Jesus. Though He is God, He humbled himself to the Father’s will and went to the cross for our salvation.

This week, we will add yet another guiding principle to our repertoire—this from Jesus own lips. In John 13, our Lord says, “A new commandment I give to you!” Surely those words sent the disciples scrambling for Sharpies and Post-It notes. This is something worth writing down and they want to be sure to get every word.

“Okay, Jesus… Let’s have it!”

“A new commandment I give to you! (pause for effect) Love one another.”

At that, Sharpies fall to the ground and a look of disappointment appears on all eleven faces (Judas has left the room to finalize his betrayal plan). “Love one another? That’s not new! Moses told us that! He told us to ‘love our neighbor as ourself’. This isn’t new at all!”

“That’s because,” says the ever-patient Jesus, “I haven’t given you the new part yet. Here it is. John, write this down. As I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

“Oh, that is new. That takes Moses’ command to a whole ‘nother level.”

It does, doesn’t it? Loving others the way Jesus loves us requires a much bigger commitment and a much greater effort.

We love like Jesus when we learn what it means to die to self—when we learn what it means to take up the cross and follow Him.

So, how does Jesus love us? We’re told in a lot of places. Jesus says this in John 10, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” A good shepherd takes care of every need his flock might have. He makes sure they get good rest and eat healthy food. He leads them, corrects them, and blesses them. But in the end, his love is best shown by his willingness to die for them. Whether it’s a bear, a lion, or Satan himself, the Good Shepherd puts his life on the line so that his sheep will be spared.

The apostle writes in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That’s how much Jesus loves us—He gave His life for us. And in order for us to love like Jesus, guess what, we must also be willing to give our life for the sake of the other. Talk about raising the bar! But the good news is, if we are truly in Christ, we’re already dead. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

When we came to faith in Christ Jesus and obeyed the gospel, we died! We have been crucified with Christ, so that He can live in us! “And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

That’s how we love others like Jesus loves us. We look to the cross. The cross teaches us how to love the people who are vastly different from ourselves. It’s only when we die to ourselves that we discover how to love like Jesus. Until I die to myself, my tendency is to be focused on me. It’s all about me—what I like,  what makes me happy! I can’t love others when I’m focused on me.

We love when we learn what it means to die to self—when we learn what it means to take up the cross and follow Jesus. That’s when we’ll truly love like Jesus. And when we love like Jesus, the whole world changes. Jesus continues in verse 35, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When we love like Jesus, we look like Jesus. And we do this for nothing less than the sake of the world. Without the love of Jesus, the world is doomed. It’s up to us to show the world how much Jesus loves them. Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? It may even sound impossible! But it’s not. We start by loving where we are, by loving that person in the church who is completely different from us. Make an effort to know them and serve them.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

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Jim Hays

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