Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day made numerous attempts to catch Jesus in his words so that they might accuse him of some crime. Both the Pharisees and Sadducees tested Jesus often, but he always put them to silence. On one such occasion, after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees the Pharisees asked him what he considered to be the greatest commandment. Jesus answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV) Maybe the apostle Paul had these two commandments in mind when he admonished Timothy to be an example to the believers in love.
To love God with all our heart, soul and mind is to love God with all of our thoughts, feelings, breath, imaginations and understanding. In Mark’s account of this encounter (Mark 12:30) he adds the word strength to Jesus’ response; meaning ability, power or forcefulness. In every aspect of our human existence we are commanded to love God.
When Jesus commands us to love our neighbor he uses the same word for love as he does for our love of God (Gr. agapao). So, it seems that we should show the same love toward our neighbors as we do toward God. We can only love our neighbors with this kind of love if first we love God. It is equally true that if we love God in the way we are commanded we will love our neighbor in the same way. As Paul admonished Timothy so he admonishes us. We should be an example to the believers of how to love God and love our neighbor.
What does love look like? Jesus told his disciples, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15 ESV) And again, Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. (John 14:21 ESV) John reiterated this in his epistles (1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6). He even states that the way we know we love other believers is that we love God and keep his commandments (1 John 5:2). Living according to God’s word (obedience) is the gauge of our love for God. And part of that obedience is to love others as we love ourselves. One way we walk out loving others is by meeting their needs as we see in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). John wrote, 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? (1 John 3:17 ESV) We are even to love our enemies (Luke 6:27).
Paul gave us a detailed description of what love is and isn’t. In his first letter to the Corinthians he wrote, Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV) To be an example of love, our love must look like Paul’s description.
What does your love look like? Are you an example to the believers by the way you love God and others?
Scriptures for meditation:
Romans 12:9-10; 13:9-10