Jesus was an advocate of self-love. Consider His words in Matthew 22:39, “…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…” Jesus taught that a natural, respectful love for yourself is normal; and it is essential in our relationships with others. Without a proper love for yourself, you are sure to have a rough time loving anyone else.
When we think of loving our friends, we are reminded that Jesus said that the identifying mark of the Christian is love for fellow believers. A famous Jewish historian wrote that it was said of the first-century Christians, “Behold, how they love one another.” Today, some historians might be prompted to write, “Behold, how they stab one another in the back.” How tragic it is that unbelievers often to a better job of showing concern than Christians do. We need to continually remind ourselves that our Lord commanded us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
What about our enemies. Should we love our enemies? Yes, Jesus said we are to do this too. Perhaps you wonder: can I do it? The answer is yes and no. Yes, we can do it; but no, not on our own. Romans 5:5 says that the Holy Spirit supplies the love we need. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.“
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that it is normal to love those who love you and hate those who hate you. But He then pointed out that when you love those who hate you, you demonstrate spiritual maturity. And God’s Word reveals that when we love this way, we are loving with agape love.
The demonstration of genuine love in a Christian’s life draws attention to Christ. This truth is illustrated by a thrilling experience of Peter and John. They were going into the Temple on one Sabbath day when they met a crippled man. Peter spoke to the man and commanded him in the name of Jesus to stand and walk. Miraculously, the cripple’s legs were healed. He not only stood, but began leaping with joy. Peter used the opportunity to preach to the people gathered around. The City Council of Jerusalem got very uptight about this and called Peter “on the carpet” so to speak. They asked him to testify and he gave them just what they asked for. How did they respond? Acts 4:13 says,
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.“
Peter and John were not geniuses. In fact, in the eyes of the world, they were just two dumb fishermen. But they showed a real love in their lives and in so doing, they magnified the Lord Jesus Christ.
God wants the same wonderful thing to happen in your life.