How do we develop and nurture a love that is worth giving on Valentine’s Day and every day? The answer, I believe, is found in God’s Word—John 15:9-17 to be precise. Let’s read what Jesus has to say in this passage.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command… This is my command: Love each other.”
Jesus had a lot to say about love, and his final night with his followers was no exception. During the course of the evening (which began in John 13 and carries on through chapter 17), Jesus uses the word Love no less than thirty times in eighteen different verses. It doesn’t take Bible scholar to see that love meant a lot to Jesus, that this was his central message to his disciples. Zeroing in on this brief excerpt from the evening, though, I believe Jesus reveals for us how to obtain a love that is worth giving. It all begins when we receive his love for us!
Receive His Love
Jesus knew that the time for him to leave this world had come. He knew that the time he had left with his disciples was short. He wanted to spend that time showing them the full extent of his love. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love” (vs. 9). “I love you,” he told them!
He loves you too.
The song ‘Jesus loves me’ sums up just about everything you need to know about Jesus and His love. Do you know the origin of that song? It first appeared in the form of a poem in a children’s novel written by Anna Warner in 1859. One of the characters in the story comforts a dying child with the words, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” A couple of year later William Bradbury stumbled across it, wrote his own tune and added a chorus. Within months the melody spread across North America like wildfire. A simple poem from an obscure novel became the most well-known hymn in the world. It’s been translated into more languages than any other song. It’s often used by missionaries as a teaching aid, because they favor its simple and easy-to-learn chorus.
Why has this simple song become so universally known and loved? Because it expresses the single most significant and profound truth known to humanity in three simple words—Jesus love me! Years of bible study won’t teach you anything more significant than this one song sung in Sunday-School classrooms all over the world.
Receiving the love of Jesus and living in his love everyday, is the first and most essential step in having a love worth giving. Jesus explains it this way: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In other words, as we draw closer to Christ and stay connected to him, he funnels his love into our hearts; only then will we have a love worth giving, because his love is the only perfect a pure love this world has to offer. His love is characterized by sacrifice: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Jesus said (vs. 13). And that’s just what he did. Receive his love—accept the wonderful, undeniable truth that Jesus loves you and draw close to him, allowing him to pour his love into your heart. That’s the first step in obtaining a love that is worth giving. The second step is to reciprocate his love.
Reciprocate His Love
In Jesus’ day, a rabbi’s disciples were generally known as his servants. But Jesus changes that. He says: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father” (vs. 14-15). In your relationship with God, Jesus promotes you from servant to friend. What kind of friend are you?
It’s one thing to say, “Jesus loves me.” It’s whole other thing to say, “I love Jesus.” Can you say that? Do you love Jesus? Do you love God? Is your love for him reflected in how you live your life? When we sing “Oh, how I love Jesus,” do you mean it? We will never be able to love the people God has put in our lives, if we don’t start by loving God himself.
Jesus said that the first and greatest command is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Our love for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit must be the driving force of our lives. If everything we do isn’t spurred by our deep love for God, then nothing we do really matters.
So how does reciprocating God’s love manifest in practical ways? Well, I would say it’s not too different from any other love or relationship. It’s built on trust, communication, adoration, etc. In other words: faith, prayer, and worship. The thing about loving Jesus, though, is that our love for him needs to be all-consuming. That’s essentially what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and abide in his love for you. It affects every aspect of your life.
Going right along with what Paul says in Romans 12:2, loving Jesus means to: “Take your everyday, ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1).
Now, as we continue to receive and reciprocate God’s love, there is a third ingredient that completes the recipe. That is recycling his love.
Recycle His Love
Repeatedly throughout this passage and the rest of the chapter, Jesus says, “This is my command: Love each other” (vs. 17). Once we’ve received the love of Jesus into our lives and reciprocate his love, then we’re ready to recycle that love. That means to share that love with the rest of the world.
Jesus was very specific, though, about how we should love people. He said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). This commandment knocks the walls out of any definition that would limit the scope and intensity of love. We are to love as he loved.
Just hours before issuing this comprehensive command, Jesus demonstrated it. The spring showers would have most likely turned the Palestinian dirt into thick sludge, possibly several inches deep. The country roads and even the city streets would have been caked in mud. This mud would have oozed into the open toed sandals of the disciples. It was customary for a servant to use a basin of water and a clean towel to wash their dirty feet before sitting down to dinner.
As the disciples reached the upper room, they probably spotted the towel and water basin easily enough, but there were apparently no servants around. So while the rest of them gathered around the table, tracking mud through the house, Jesus prepared to do something wonderful.
The Bible says, “He rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a wash basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist” (vs. 4-5).
Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, the Alpha and Omega, got on his knees and washed the filthy disciple’s feet. It’s almost too much to believe. But it’s even more amazing when we realize that this was a demonstration not only of humility and service, but unrelenting love!
“Looking back on that night,” writes Anne Graham Lotz, “John must have recalled the tender tone of his voice, the loving look on his face, the gentle grace of his gestures, the piercing passion in his eyes, the princely posture of his person, and been awe-struck that Jesus had expressed his love for his disciples to the utmost degree of which he was capable—through serving them!”
As we seek to grow in our capacity to love, to have a love that is truly worth giving, let’s continue to look to the heart of Jesus and learn to love like him. The pursuit of this will change your life forever!