And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:21).
Our modern culture is filled with distractions, whether it be technology, work, or busyness in general. Sometimes people are just passing faces we say hello to but don’t really have time for. Showing love can seem like a daunting task that we’re not always sure we can take on with all our other commitments. Here are several concrete and basic ways we can love people.
1. Welcome people like friends rather than strangers.
Loving often begins with our attitude. A Christlike attitude welcomes people rather than excludes them. A Christlike attitude recognizes that we are all alike in that we are all sinners in need of the bountiful grace of Christ.
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom. 15:7)
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom. 12:10)
2. Look to the needs of others.
Acts 2 tells us this is exactly what the early Christians did right after they were converted.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2:44–47)
Despite the vast variety of people and languages represented (Acts 2:9–10), the early Christians willingly entered into one another’s lives, sharing the necessities of life. Giving away our money and possessions requires wisdom and discernment. However, the general principle of looking after the poor is seen throughout Scripture as part of God's command to love others (Matt. 25:36-40; 1 John 3:17-18).
3. Talk to someone who is different from you.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (James 2:9)
It is easy to stay in our comfort zones and stick with the circle of friends who are similar in age or have similar jobs or like similar things. Comfort is a wonderful blessing, but it can lead to apathy and blindness in the community as a whole. God shows no partiality when he saves, so we also should have an open heart when it comes to caring about all types of people. We also broaden our awareness of—and compassion for—the thoughts, hopes, fears, and joys of people who are living in circumstances different from our own.
4. Invite someone over to your house for a meal.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Rom. 12:13)
If you don’t have much experience with hosting, opening up your home and cooking a meal can be intimidating, but here’s the thing: most people don’t care if your house is a bit messy and dinner isn’t a four-course meal topped off with the finest wine and candles on the table. A welcoming attitude and a communal meal are usually all that is needed to make people feel comfortable. The very act of opening your home often leads to the opening of hearts and minds to begin forming deep and lasting bonds that build one another up.
5. Allow people to take off their masks.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)
People lost in sin, struggling with sin, or going through difficult circumstances need a place where they feel safe enough to be honest about their challenges and confess their sin and get help. This means taking the time to really listen to and care about people, understanding how tempting sin is. Loving someone, however, does not mean ignoring or putting up with their sin. Allowing continual and unrepentant sins to go unchallenged fails to show that person Christlike love, who went to the cross because of sin. We are called to gently and lovingly help people lost in sin to see God's goodness and greatness so that they turn to God in repentance and faith and thereby find salvation from sin and eternal life. God often works through the love of people to bring his redemptive love into a person’s life (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
Brothers, pray for us. (1 Thess. 5:25)
Praying for someone can sometimes seem like it doesn’t really count as loving that person; however, prayer involves coming before the most powerful Being in the universe. In Christ, the prayers of a believer are powerful, and we can be confident that God hears us and cares about what we ask. Praying for others is actually one of the most powerfully loving things we can do for them.
7. Smile at them.
The simple act of smiling can communicate warmth, welcome, and love and pave the way to a conversation. A smiling person is also easier to approach and talk to; and if you don’t have time to stop and say hello to someone, a smile says you noticed and acknowledged that person. Many of my sweetest friendships began by smiling at one another, sometimes for several weeks, before a conversation eventually happened!
Most of the time, love is a struggle. It is impossible for us to love each other perfectly. Love requires patience, humility, kindness, and most importantly, dependence upon God. It can be easy to be legalistic about loving others, but love shouldn't feel like a burden or be so draining that we become cynical. This is why we don’t trust in our own ability to love but rather trust in the one who showed us what love truly is.
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. (1 John 4:9–11)
It was love that sent him to die on a cross. He takes our weariness away and gives us his infinite Spirit that enables us to cry out to God as a child calls to their loving and gracious Father. By God's abundant grace, we are filled with his bountiful and unchangeable love. We now have the freedom to love God and love others, not as a way of trying to be good enough to win God’s favor, but out of an overflowing love and gratitude for God’s love in Christ.