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Is Love Between Christians Unique?

by Stephen Davey

Jay asked:

Is there a way that Christians love each other that is different from how we are to love all people?

Thanks for your question, Jay. 

One of the distinguishing features of Christianity is the command to love – both God and our fellow human beings. Indeed, love is the essence of Jesus' teaching: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV). However, a thoughtful examination of the scriptures reveals that there is a distinctive quality to the love Christians should have for one another. But how does this differ from the love we are commanded to have for all people?

The Universal Call to Love:

Scripture clearly teaches that all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27 ESV), making each person valuable and deserving of dignity, respect, and love. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31 ESV), and Jesus expands the definition of "neighbor" to include even our enemies (Matthew 5:44 ESV).

This love is demonstrated through acts of kindness, generosity, and forgiveness, reflecting God's love towards all people and mirroring His common grace — blessings God bestows on all humanity regardless of their relationship with Him.

The Distinctive Love Among Christians:

However, a unique type of love exists within the body of Christ. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35 ESV). This love is self-sacrificial, reflecting Jesus' love for His followers. It is by this love that Christians are set apart.

Christian love extends beyond compassion and kindness, entering the realm of deep, spiritual unity. This love is demonstrated through bearing one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2 ESV), exhorting each other to good works (Hebrews 10:24 ESV), and rejoicing and weeping with one another (Romans 12:15 ESV).

In essence, Christian love should reflect the love within the Trinity – the self-giving love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The church, united in Christ, is to reflect this profound unity (John 17:21 ESV).

One main reason there is a unique love between Christians is that the ability to love as we should is a work of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul writes, "the fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22 ESV). Christian love is supernatural, going beyond human capacity, rooted in our union with Christ, and nurtured by the indwelling Spirit. You can supernaturally love an unbeliever. However, the bond of reciprocal supernatural love is only experienced by Christians. 

Christian love is meant to be a witness to the world. Jesus emphasized that our love for each other would be a powerful testimony to our faith (John 13:35 ESV). It is through this distinctly Christian love that the world will see the transformative power of the gospel.

So, while Christians are called to love all people – neighbors and enemies alike – as bearers of God's image, there is a distinctive, sacrificial, and unity-expressing love that believers are to have for one another. This unique love, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bears witness to our faith and points others to Christ. As we navigate our daily lives, may we strive to love as Christ loved us, fostering unity within the body of Christ, and radiating His love to the world around us

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