Kingdom Truth - The Secret of Church Growth

Chapter 4
Christians Must Love One Another

     When the brothers and sisters of a church focus on putting themselves first, fighting for fame and grasping at benefits, and when they are unwilling to treat one another with sincerity, to act in Olle aCCOrd, and tO have affinity for One another I God's presence will never be a reality among them. The Bible has stated,

No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us.... (1 John 4:12)

The Early Church had God's presence not only because the apostles were called and sent by God but also because the brethren loved one another.

It Is God's Commandment

     God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites in the Old Testamentbut He has given only one to the New Testament Christians. This commandment is:

And this is His commandment, that we believe
in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another,
just as He has commanded us. (1 John3:23)

On the surface, it seems that there are two commandments. In reality they are two aspects of one commandment, because the word "commandment" is singular · in number in the originallangtiage. Its singularity has fully unfolded the significance of loving one another.

     The common concept most Christians hold is, "Believing in our Lord Jesus is an absolute must, but loving one another is for our free will to choose." The Holy Spirit has, however, clearly pointed to a contrary concept: Loving one another and · believing in our Lord Jesus are of equal importance. Believing in our Lord is an absolute must1 and loving one another is also an absolute must. Since they are two aspects of one commandment, we cannot treat them with partiality. May the Church of the last days think thrice about this.

It Is Laying Down Oneself

     "Loving one another" has been misunderstood and misinterpreted over and over again. The young people today, in particular, often confuse love with sex. This 1ustful animalism can in turn lead to evil ways. As a result, society is in chaos, families are breaking down, andman is acting like an animal. What then is "loving one another" after all? The Bible tells us:

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us;
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)

     The first half of this verse is easy to comprehend, because our Lord Himself demonstrated His love for us through death. But the meaning of the second half, "and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren," is difficult to grasp. As we only have one life on this earth, does it mean that we can only love a brother once in this life? Such an explanation is certainly unacceptable! Therefore, let us go back to the original Greek language.

     In the phrase "He laid down His life," originally "His life" is "His soul." This verse actually says,

...He laid down His soul for us; and we ought to lay dpwn our souls for the brethren.

Since "soul" often means "self" in the Bible, then this verse can in fact be further interpreted as:

We know love by this, that He laid down His self for us;
and we ought to lay down ourselves for the brethren.

"To love" is to lay down one's "self"; and "to love one another" is brethren laying down their "selves" for one another. Any love that has a purpose or an intention which puts oneself first, is nothing but lust!

It Is Imitating The Lord

     The soul consists of intellect, emotion and will. Since "to love" is to lay down one's soul, then "to love one another" can be characterized as below. For the sake of his brethren, a person is willing to lay down his emotions (his happiness, sorrow, love, hatred, desire and fear), his intellect (his opinions, goals, expectations and perceptions), and his will (his choices, rules and ideas).

     Our Lord Jesus has set a good example for us.  Because of His love for His parents, He laid down his desire for knowledge and returned to Nazareth with them. Because of His love for His disciples, He laid down his infinite understanding and put the disciples first in every matter. And, because of His compassion for the Canaanite woman, He laid down His rules and allowed her to share the crumbs that fell from the table.

     In short, pure love does not include the least bit of "self." If a church can love one another in such a way, church growth will naturally "bloom abundantly and joy will be added to joy."

It Is Perfecting God's Love

     The Bible says, "...if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12). Loving one another is a condition necessary for God's presence as well as a means for perfecting His love.

     The noun "love" is in the genitive case. A genitive case can be either objective or subjective; and in this verse, the latter is more appropriate. This love is God's love for us, because it is about the functions of loving one another-to have God's presence, and, to perfect His love.

      What is the meaning of "His love is perfected"? All normal and pure love has three essential aspects: the object of love, the action of love, and the extension of love. We all know that God is love, but who is the object of God's love? He is Christ! Our gracious Lord has said this to God the Father, "...for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). It should be no surprise then, that a voice came out of the heavens after His baptism, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am [was] well-pleased" (Matt. 3:17).

     What is the action of God's love then? The Bible says,

The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. (John 3:35) His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things.... (Heb. 1:2)

This is the reason why God has created the whole universe: "...all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16).

     To whom has God's love been extended? Our Lord Jesus has told His disciples that, ''Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you..." (John 15:9). Thanks be to our gracious Lord whose love for us is not a mere reflection of His sympathy, but an extension of the Father's love. How exciting and how joyous it is! Hallelujah!

     Since one aspect of God's love is extension and we have enjoyed it through our Lord Jesus (ref. John 17:23), we should then extend it to brothers and sisters in Christ. Our Lord Jesus has said,

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

     When God's children become lovers of self and are unwilling to love one another, they put a halt to the extension. As a consequence, the purpose of God's love cannot be achieved and thus cannot be perfected. May God help us to love one another, that His love will be perfected in us. When His love is nurtured in a church, the church will surely grow in Him.

It Is Through Practice

     The apostles received this commandment of love directly from our Lord, and they later practiced it faithfully· and continuously. As a result, "Behold, how loving Christians are towards one another!" became a remark of admiration and compliment from Gentiles towards Christians at that time. As for today, "loving one another" is only a slogan the Church chants mechanically, but cares little for. Its realization seems so distant that we do not know when it will come about. When a church does not understand the importance and essence of love, and does not practice its prerequisite of laying down oneself, it is impossible for God to be with her. May God have mercy upon us!

Chapter 4
Shepherd His Sheep