Jesus of Nazareth taught us no less than three (3) different ways to measure our behavior so that we can more honestly discern if we are a lover or a hater.
The first measuring stick is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39 ESV. That’s a very familiar phrase but not many realize that Jesus here is giving us an objective standard by which to measure ourselves. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In other words, love other people like you love yourself.
This is akin to the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12 ESV. Here Jesus is saying that we should love others like we would want to be loved.
Let’s take a practical example. If I were looking at some photos on my friend’s smartphone and accidentally dropped it and broke it, I would likely say, “It wasn’t my fault”, “it slipped out of my hand”, “it was an old phone anyway, and he needed a new one,” or something similar.
On the other hand, if my friend were to drop my smartphone and it broke, my first reaction probably wouldn’t be to make excuses for him. I’d be tempted to think, “What an idiot!”, “Why wasn’t he more careful?!” and “I’m going to make him pay for it!”
Look at the differences in responses. Human nature cuts ourselves more slack than anyone else.
To “love my neighbor as myself” I should be just as quick to make excuses for my friend as I do for myself. Anything less than that falls short of the standard of true, unhypocritical love.
The second measurement of love that Jesus taught us is that we should love each other as he loved us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34 ESV
Of course, to understand this measurement we need to know something about the life Jesus lived on this earth. He devoted every day of his life to make the lives of other people better. He travelled from town to town, not to earn money, but to bring healing and hope to the poorest of the poor. When he was put to death, he forgave the people that were killing him, giving them the benefit of the doubt by asking God to forgive them because “they don’t know what they are doing”.
There’s no record of anything Jesus did that was selfish. He gave up his home, his career, the respect of his family and the hope of having his own family just so he could be focused on loving us.
Finally, Jesus said the best measure of love is to give everything we have to help others:
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 15:12-13 ESV
Once again, Jesus’ example shows us it can be done. He lived his life to serve others, and he gave his life to save his friends.
Others have followed his example. Throughout the centuries many people have died so that others could live. Many Congressional Medals of Honor have been handed out posthumously to soldiers and sailors who saved other’s lives at the cost of their own.
It’s good to follow Jesus’ example and live selfless lives of love. It’s also good to ask ourselves if we love like Jesus taught us to love, and showed us to love. If we would believe it, Jesus also gives us the power to love like him. How he does it is the subject of my next blog.
© Tony Nardella 2022