To love like Jesus, we need to understand a simple truth. We cannot live the Christian life on our own.
Sooner or later, in the midst of our frustration, we come to the conclusion that we're doing something wrong. It's not working. Our best efforts just don't cut it.
Discovering Why We Can't Love Like Jesus
All of us want to love like Jesus. We want to be generous, forgiving, and compassionate enough to love people unconditionally. But no matter how hard we try, it just doesn't work. Our humanness gets in the way.
Jesus was human too, but he was also God incarnate. He was able to see the people he created in a way that we can't. He personified love. In fact, the Apostle John said, "God is love..." (1 John 4:16, ESV)
You and I are not love. We can love, but we can't do it perfectly. We see others' faults and stubbornness. When we remember the slights they have done to us, a small part of us can't forgive. We refuse to make ourselves as vulnerable as Jesus did because we know we'll get hurt again. We love and at the same time we hold back.
Yet Jesus tells us to love as he did: "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." (John 13:34, ESV)
How do we do something we're incapable of doing? We turn to Scripture for the answer and it's there we learn the secret of how to love like Jesus.
Love Like Jesus Through Abiding
We don't get very far before we learn the Christian life is impossible. Jesus gave us the key, however: "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27, ESV)
He explained this truth in depth in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John, with his parable of the vine and branches. The New International Version uses the word "remain", but I like the English Standard Version translation using "abide":
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:1-10, ESV)
Did you catch that in verse 5? "Apart from me you can do nothing." We can't love like Jesus on our own. In fact, we can't do anything in the Christian life on our own.
The missionary James Hudson Taylor called it "the exchanged life." We surrender our life to Jesus to the extent that when we abide in Christ, he loves others through us. We can endure rejection because Jesus is the vine that sustains us. His love heals our hurts and supplies the strength we need to keep going.
Love Like Jesus by Trusting
When we see a selfless Christian saint who can love like Jesus, we can be sure that person is abiding in Christ and he in her. What would be too hard on our own, we can do through this act of abiding. We continue to abide by reading the Bible, praying, and attending church with other believers. In this way our trust in God is built up.
Like branches on a vine, our Christian life is a growth process. We mature more every day. As we abide in Jesus, we learn to know him better and trust him more. Cautiously, we reach out to others. We love them. The greater our trust in Christ, the greater our compassion will be.
This is a lifelong challenge. When we are rebuffed, we have the choice to draw back or give our hurt to Christ and try again. Abiding is what matters. When we live that truth, we can begin to love like Jesus.