As we go through this series, there will no doubt be some overlap in some of the things we’ll talk about. That’s OK — some things are worth re-emphasizing. And there are some elements so integral to Jesus’ character that they influence everything about his life.
Jesus’ love for people is one of those things.
Jesus reflected God’s character of love
One of the primary missions that Jesus had in this world was that he revealed the Father to us. When Thomas asked Jesus to “show us the Father,” Jesus responded “he that has seen me has seen the Father.” Even the holiest of men throughout history had not seen God; Moses, despite talking to God as he would a friend, only saw God in a carefully controlled, indirect way, in which a portion of God’s glory was revealed.
So when Jesus came to this earth, man was able for the first time to truly see God. Not in the sense that people ought to see a woefully imperfect reflection of God in our actions. We saw how God reacted, how God felt about people, how God viewed sin and sinners, how God viewed worship. We saw a perfect reflection of what God expects out of His creation, because Jesus lived up to everything that he taught.
So it’s not surprising, given what scripture says about God, that one of if not the most defining characteristic of Jesus was love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8
Jesus loved just as he taught
Jesus loved people. He had a passion for teaching and revealing spiritual truths to anyone who would listen, and he felt compassion for the weaknesses and pains that men and women go through every day. And yes, he loved his enemies, too. Just like he taught us!
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. — Matthew 5:44-48
As always, all of Jesus’ efforts were focused on directing men toward God: love your enemies because God loves them too, and God blesses indiscriminately. And above all, Jesus wanted us to be like the Father that he loved.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. — Ephesians 5:1-2
Jesus loved in deed more than in word
Jesus didn’t seem to spend a lot of time telling those around him how much he loved people. And it’s actually surprising to go back and count the number of times that Jesus teaches about love in the gospels. Hint: it’s not nearly as often as you’d think. While Jesus does have plenty to say about the importance of love, he taught love primarily in the way that he acted toward people. We see Christ’s life, and we see what love looks like.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. — 1 John 3:16-18
We’ll talk about specific aspects of this topic in future weeks: what did Jesus’ love look like? How did Jesus express love toward different types and classes of people? Jesus had special relationships just like we do. He saw things in people that moved him to an even greater love and appreciation, just like we do. But the central figure in all of this is what that love motivated Jesus to do.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. — John 15:12-14
Jesus gave us an example of what Godly love is. And our own love ought to reflect that of Christ. We love God because of who He is. “We love Him because He first loved us.” And we love others whether they love us or not – even those who are not lovable.
Can people see the love of Christ in us? Not the love of Christ as the world may choose to define it, but the love of Christ that Jesus demonstrated every day in all facets of his life.