Love. Such a short word, but just the mention of it conjures up myriad images. What is the first image that pops into your mind when you hear the word love?
For me, the image I see is a heart. Not a real human heart, but a bright pink and purple Valentine’s heart. Much like the one above.
The apostle Paul has much to say on the topic of love, though his letter to the Romans is not the first place I think to turn when I want to read what Paul has to say about love. But today let’s take a look at Paul’s words in Romans 13.
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”
Romans 13:8-10, NLT
Here Paul says we are obligated to love one another. The commandment to love one another has been around since the beginning. God commanded the people of Israel to love God and love one another (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5 & Leviticus 19:18). Jesus brought these two commandments together in his answer to the religious leader’s question about the greatest commandment. You can read the story in Mark 12:28-34.
Love God and love others. Our love for God overflows into love for others. The two are inseparable.
Jesus pushes this even further in John 13:34-35 when he tells his disciples “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (NLT).
As followers of Jesus we are to be known by our love. What’s more, our love for others is what marks us as followers of Jesus. When we truly love others, people notice. For outsiders looking in, our love for others and for each other is what will catch their attention.
We find ourselves in a unique position during this season of a global pandemic. Loving our neighbor looks much different than we expect or want or even how it has looked in times past. But we are commanded to love anyway. It’s not optional. We must push forward and look for creative ways to love our neighbors even while maintaining social distance. So let’s be creative and love like Jesus in the new normal in which we find ourselves. I can’t think of a better way to be beacons of hope in this season.