It has again been several months since my last post. It seems that life gets busier with each passing day. I have been trying to find what I wanted to write about and have been left pondering what it means to love those around us. In Scripture we have several examples of how we are to love those around us, not only those whom we love, but also those who are strangers or those who consider themselves to be our enemies. When the Bible speaks about the love that we are supposed to have, love that is meant to reflect Christ and His character, it is not given to us as a suggestion. Rather the love that we see throughout the Bible, is commanded of those who would proclaim Christ as Lord.
Jesus said to His disciples: " 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.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV) Jesus is calling the disciples to live in such a way that everyone who sees them will know instantly that they deeply care for one another. This is not a surface love that is only seen one or two days a week. But rather this is more along the lines of the love that should be readily visible between a husband and wife. There are difference in the intimacy shared, but the love that Jesus is calling for them to share with one another is the same. They are to care for each other in a way that only a Christian can, by the Spirit and with grace and mercy.
Later in 1 John, God writes through John:
 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7–21, ESV)
These verses stood out to me and caused me to think about the manner by which we walk through our daily lives. Do those around us see the love of God? Can they tell that we actually love one another? If we fail to live in such a way that people can see that we love fellow believers, then how deeply have we sinned and failed to bring the gospel to them? Every day that we do not love each other, we are proclaiming to the world that God does not abide in us. If we claim to love God, we must love those around us. For if we do not we are liars. In verse eighteen it talks about there not being any fear in love. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. What does it mean when it mentions not having fear? Is it referring to being physically afraid? I don't think that it is, it may be in part speaking about physical fear, but I do not think that it is the primary focus. Love is something that must be expressed or physically demonstrated, and therefore the fear spoken of in these verses would seem to not only concern physical fear, but also emotional. If we truly love one another, we should not fear slights, offenses, neglects, or the sins of others. Why? Because the love that we experience does not flow from another person, but rather from God. Therefore, if someone does something that may cause us emotional pain, we should not fear because that does not represent the love of God. God's love is pure and just, never the cause of pain. It is during these times that we must show the love of Christ working in us, forgiving without needing to be asked. For God's love for us does not change because we sin after coming to faith, but rather it remains the same, steadfast, holding us, caring for us.
Matthew 5 says:
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38–48, ESV)
We are to forgive anyone who mistreats us, let alone those who are among the children of God. Love that flows from the believer should be perfect. Not perfect when we are able, because we never are, but we should strive for perfection because He is able to make our love perfect. Again, there should be forgiveness and peace whenever possible, keeping no record of wrongs done against us, for did not Jesus suffer more than any one of us ever could?
 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12–15, ESV)
 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2, ESV)
 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21–35, ESV)
Matthew 18 does not say that we are only to forgive once a brother repents to us, but rather that we are to forgive, truly and sincerely. As Christians, we are not to hold grudges towards anyone, especially not one in the family of God. We are called to forgive readily and willingly, for have we not already been forgiven more than we can even comprehend?
Let us strive to live with one another in the manner and means that God has prescribed for us to live. Let us live in harmony, not with strife and pettiness determining our actions. Let us strive to love as He has loved us.