A Witness of the Love of God
It’s not some generic brand of love that the church models. It’s God’s love in Christ that we should display: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). Jesus emphasizes the fact that the world will know we’re His disciples not by our love for the world, though that’s certainly true, but by our love for each other. Through our gospel cultures of forgiving words and righteous deeds, we demonstrate what Christ’s love is like.
The world thinks it understands love. It doesn’t. It only knows zero-sum-game love: “I want you to love others less so you can love me more.” Yet God’s love is a generative love. It creates more of itself. Watch this in John 17: the Father loves the Son, and the Son the Father. The Father and Son then send the Spirit to form a people who will receive the Father’s love for the Son. And through the Spirit, they learn to love God and each other as the Father, Son, and Spirit love one another.
Sacrifice and Obedience
Our culture defines love as giving people whatever they want. Love means prioritizing self-expression and self-realization.
Yet Jesus teaches that love leads to obedience, and obedience is a sign of love (John 14:21,23; 15:10–11; 1 John 5:3). It does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It heeds the will of the Father. It desires good for others, but that good always involves God and obedience to His revealed will.
Love even involves discipline. The Lord disciplines those whom He loves. A church that never disciplines, or corrects sin, is an unloving church.