When Jesus gave us His final instructions the night before He was crucified, He said, “love one another” five times! It’s as if He’s saying to us — me and you — if you don’t do anything else, make sure that you love one another.
And just in case we still didn’t get it, He clarified by saying, “love one another just as I have loved you.” He said this only hours before laying down His life for us. Jesus is talking about life-giving, sacrificial love.
When the New Testament was written, persecution was a way of life. Christians lived in fear of being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed. They were forced from their homes and robbed of their possessions. They had NO ONE to help them. Not the Romans. Not even the UN :). They only had “one another,” meaning other Christians. Their lives literally depended on the love Jesus commanded of His followers.
And their first century brothers and sisters didn’t let them down. They knowingly incriminated themselves to feed those imprisoned and shelter and clothe those who were homeless. They showed their love for the Lord and His children by risking their lives to care for them (Hebrews 10:34). This legendary love changed the world 2,000 years ago.
One of the most beautiful modern examples of this love took place in Pakistan in September, 2013. Two Islamic suicide bombers carried out the country’s deadliest attack against Christians at the All Saints Church in Peshawar at the end of a Sunday service. Of the 500 believers in attendance, 127 were killed and more than 250 were injured. The Islamic community also warned the church that they would strike again the next Sunday, should anyone be foolish enough to attend.
One week later, more than 1,000 brothers and sisters, in solidarity for those who were martyred just seven days before, showed up for service. From neighboring towns and different denominations, they poured Christ’s love into that wounded church.
Now that is sacrificial love! That display of unity is what Jesus yearns to see from us. Because when we truly love one another, the world gets to see “just as” Christ loves us, and they will believe that He is the Son of God (John 17:21-23).
The unsaved world is longing for this perfect love and what happened in Peshawar a week after the attack was an expression of it. For the saved, it was strengthening and familiar. For the unsaved, it may be what directs their first steps toward following Jesus.
You see, if we as the body of Christ love the way our first century brothers and sisters did and the way the Peshawar community does, the same legendary love that changed the world 2,000 years ago will radically change the world today.
Grace and peace,