It can be very easy to think of love in abstract terms. For instance, it is easy to say “I love everyone.” But how does that really work out? It is a hypothetical that may have little basis in reality. We say we love everyone because we know we are supposed to love everyone (it’s hypothetical) but how does that look in real time? And how does that look when you interact with your enemy?
Love has to be more than a hypothesis. It must be true…fact…observable in real time. If love is a hypothesis in your life then spend time testing it and proving it to be true through observable actions.
Dallas Willard wrote,
“Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth. These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristic of Christlikeness, were put forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person – one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays. Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do. For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser… True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would.”
Love is not abstract. Love is a lifestyle and an outlook that runs so deep that behavior fitting deep love only comes natural to us. That means love must be concrete…actionable and observable. If you want to know how deeply your love runs, look to what John told us in 1 John 4 – not only is God love but that because God is love we also ought to love each other. John doesn’t mean hypothetically in a “I love everyone” way but in a way that is observable.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:7-11
There has been no greater demonstration of love than the observable actions of Jesus on the cross. Since God has demonstrated his love for us, we also out to love one another. My understanding of Hebrew is that one way of making the same point is to say something twice in slightly different ways (Hebrew parallelism). If that is true in this case then the last verse is saying that “God so loved us” and us needing to “love one another” would mean we are to love others in a similar or same way God loves us. This is not abstract or hypothetical. If God’s love were abstract or hypothetical there would be no incarnation.