How to Love Like Jesus
How did Jesus love? He loved with complete selflessness – He gave no thought to Himself and laid everything aside for our sake. He became love in human form and demonstrated exactly what God’s love truly is. God’s desire is that we learn how to love like Jesus – the goal of unselfish love.
Paul also tells us about self-giving, or unselfish love which describes what it means to love like Jesus.
“Our teaching about this journey is intended to bring us to a single destination—a place where self-giving love reigns from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a genuine faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 TPT
This is Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, which is believed to have been written after Paul was released from prison in Rome. He had traveled to Ephesus, reuniting with Timothy and meeting the people of the church there. Paul then traveled to Macedonia but left Timothy in charge. Like the Corinthian church, the Ephesian church was struggling as false prophets had come and deceived the people.
Our destination – our goal – is self-giving love from a pure heart, clean conscience, and genuine faith.
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”
Paul has asked Timothy to stay and deal with those who were teaching false doctrines and gives this beautiful statement about love – agape love – the love of God and Jesus.
Agape is unconditional, sacrificial love and Biblically refers to a love that that God is! God is love. It is this love that God shows and give to us a manifestation of His Spirit’s bearing fruit in the heart of a yielded saint!
This is Jesus’ love.
The word for love used in 1 Timothy 3:5 is ‘agape.’ Here is a deeper explanation of the meaning of agape:
“Love (26) (agape) is unconditional, sacrificial love and Biblically refers to a love that God is (1Jn 4:8,16), that God shows (Jn 3:16, 1Jn 4:9) and that God gives as a manifestation of His Spirit’s bearing fruit in the heart of a yielded saint (see note on fruit of the Spirit – Gal 5:22–note).
It is not surprising that Greek literature throws little light on its distinctive New Testament meaning. Biblical agape love is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) and not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from a physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that true agape love is a sure mark of salvation.” PreceptAustin.org
The Goal of Unselfish Love – Agape Love
As Paul proceeds in his letter, he is leaving Timothy with a huge task. Timothy is to bring these people back to the truth, remove the false leaders, and put new leaders in place in multiple cities! This was no small undertaking. Paul wants Timothy to restore the doctrine he, Paul, had originally shared with the church in Ephesus and showing the contrast between his doctrine and the deceptive doctrine being taught to the church n Ephesus.
Paul is setting a high standard as his goal for these people – and for us! For Paul, there was only one destination – a life filled to overflowing with agape love!
Cambridge Dictionary defines doctrine as: a belief or set of beliefs, especially political or religious ones, that are taught and accepted by a particular group. Church denominations hold to varying doctrines regarding behavior, setting foundational standards for salvation and life as a Christian. Individuals also establish their personal doctrines or convictions and generally choose a church which comes closest to what they hold as true.
Many Doctrines on One Foundation
My point is not to tell you what to believe. Paul’s point was that there was only one doctrine which was correct – the one that leads us to living a self-giving love. I grew up with the Apostles Creed and it formed the foundation for my life and my conscience even before I accepted Christ as the Lord of my life. Here is a modernized version of it.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” The Apostles Creed
Most churches have something similar to this with additions for other aspects of daily and church life they hold to be correct.
What is Your Life Built On?
Whether we have ever really analyzed it or not, we each have a set of beliefs, doctrines, and convictions we live by. They may change and be adjusted over our lifetime, but some of them stay with us for good. I have areas of my life that have definitely changed as I grew in Christ, matured in knowledge, and in years. Some things have completely changed. Some have softened and some have become more deeply ingrained. But, for my entire life, they have been what the Holy Spirit and my conscience upheld and guided me by.
Preferences vs. Foundations
It is good for us to identify the things we hold as absolutes of our faith, separating them from the things which may be simply personal preferences. I love contemporary Christian music with drums, guitars, and loud music. As a child, we sang hymns. As an adult returning to church, it was contemporary Christian and I loved it from day one. I still love the old hymns, but when I want to really worship I go for Hillsong or Bethel or something similar. I don’t believe everyone has to listen to the same thing. It’s what ministers to me and helps me worship and my choice of churches is based partially on this. It is a preference. I could survive as a Christian if I didn’t have it. My absolutes, however, I must have. They are what shapes my life like the goal of unselfish love.
No matter what convictions we may have in various areas of life, the basis for all of them must lie in God’s love and the living example Jesus set for us.
Accepting Varied Convictions
I can’t tell you what your convictions should be. It is between you, the Holy Spirit, and God! I am not your judge or conscience. My belief system is firm enough that I can accept those who don’t agree with me without being angry or feeling that I have to change their minds. I may not agree, but I’m not living their life and won’t have to answer for their choices.
If someone is living a lifestyle I believe to be completely wrong, I can share my own convictions, but not my condemnation. That just gets in the way of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Conviction is totally His job and He’s very good at it. He’s been doing it for thousands of years.
If asked, I can tell you what I believe to be true for me. You must decide on your own what is true for you. But, do you know what you believe? You probably know what you prefer but what about those deepest, most foundational beliefs?
First of all, look at yourself. Are you living and making decisions based on the love of Jesus? That totally pure and unselfish love must be at the core of all we are and all we do. God is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 TPT, “For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. 13 Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.”
The Goal of Unselfish Love
Paul gave Timothy the job of bringing the Ephesian church back to one place – a place where self-giving love reigns from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a genuine faith. All other doctrines should spring from that origin. Self-giving, unselfish love is the rock we build on. It is God – He is love. It is Jesus – He is self-giving love. There is no other basis from which to build a life as a Christian – a goal of unselfish love.
On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand – an old hymn which beautifully shows Christ as the rock:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
What Are Your Foundational Beliefs?
Take some time to really identify what your foundational beliefs are. Not just your preferences, which can change easily, but those things upon which you stake your very life – what you would die for.
But above all is love – agape love – the unmerited favor or God poured out upon us through the blood of Jesus.
What Does the Bible Say About God’s Love?
- Romans 5:8 ESV, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“
- John 3:16 ESV, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- 1 John 4:19 ESV, “We love because he first loved us.”
- 1 John 4:16 ESV, “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.”
- Matthew 22:37-39 ESV, “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- John 15:9-17 ESV, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
- 1 John 3:1 ESV, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
I could list many, many more scriptures that tell us about Jesus’ love and the way we are to love. We see the depths of God’s love and His passion to see us restored and in fellowship with Him again.
How To Love Like Jesus
So how can we love like Jesus? The first answer isn’t very popular but it’s the only way – die to self and crucify the flesh. Ouch – that’s step one. In addition, we don’t just do this once, we do it continually.
Galatians 2:20 ESV, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
1 Corinthians 15:31 ESV, “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!”
Galatians 5:24 ESV, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Matthew 1-38 ESV, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Romans 12:1-2 ESV, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.“
The answer to how to love like Jesus is to live and die like Jesus! We must die to self. Every day we must stand against the pull of the flesh and the world. Every day we take off the old man and put on the new one. In order to love like Jesus, we must be willing to sacrifice like Jesus.
Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Just so you don’t feel hopeless about this – it is entirely possible for us to love like Jesus. How? You have the Holy Spirit living inside you and He is a Spirit of love given by love and one with the God who is love. We can love without selfishness, make our decisions based in love for others rather than self, and live our lives every moment as Christ did.
You have been made new in Christ and have His love abounding toward you and living in you. When judgment, fear, anger, comparison and other things threaten, go back to the cross and immerse yourself in the cleansing flow of the blood of Jesus.
The Goal of Unselfish Love
God’s love is blind to the differences we see in each other and in ourselves. God sees His children in Christ and covered in love! We must all make it our highest and most important goal to learn how to love like Jesus so that He is glorified and our differences are diminished.
It will require change and sacrifice and constant dedication. All of those things were required of Jesus. He kept His eye on the prize. It was ‘for the joy set before Him’ that He endured the cross. What was the joy? It was you and me. He saw us being restored into fellowship and eternity with the Father.
Let this be our goal as well – to live our lives in a way that draws others into that same restoration. Draw them through love. Love Like Jesus!
Here is a free Scripture Coloring Book with most of the Scriptures used here. Just click on the image, then download the PDF document.
**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.
You might also enjoy reading – What Does the Bible Say About Loving One Another As Jesus Loves Us?