Love: THE New Testament Assembly Principle

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)

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 friend. (John 15:12, 13 ESV)

For God so loved that world that He gave His only Son…

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22 ESV)

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…(1 Thessalonians 3:12 ESV)

Tempest in a teapot

Last week on the AssemblyHUB Facebook page, I posted that I’d heard a conference speaker say that “’Love one another’ is the forgotten assembly NT principle.”

That garnered quite a few comments, some (regretfully) in agreement, and some not. Some said that it was a generalization, probably based on personal experience. I totally agree.

But, what I’ve been realizing over the past couple years is that while one person’s experience may not be mine, and is often biased and not gospel truth…I can’t ignore someone’s personal experience.

So, I must ask myself, “What must this person have seen or experienced that would lead them to say this?”

The person I was quoting is a very gracious and godly man that I respect very much. (also, I think he himself may have been quoting someone else.)

And, honestly, I was horrified when I heard this assertion. 

In fact, it caused me to ponder where I might think I’m doing a good job loving, but I’m actually doing the opposite.

Like Crawford pointed out on the FB thread, loving one another is more than smiles and conversation around coffee on Sunday morning.

The precedent

What does Biblical love for other believers look like? 

Simply put, it’s loving like Christ loved, like God the Father loved. It’s the sacrificial giving of your most precious thing/person to people who hate you and are your enemies. 

It’s sincere…no pretense. It’s not loving someone but not liking them very much. It’s not fake it ’til you make it. It’s words supported by action. But Paul makes the point about charitable acts and piety. They must be supported by love. Otherwise they ring patently false. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Love is not I, but Christ. It’s taking myself (my preferences, desires, ego) out of the equation, and doing what Christ would do in this circumstance.

Love is/is not

Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we garner in our own effort. It is the result of Christ’s redemptive work in us. It’s divine love, this loving we are called to practice. It’s not possible by human effort. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Love is: 

  • patient
  • kind

Love does not:

  • envy 
  • boast

Love is not:

  • arrogant
  • rude

Love does not:

  • insist on its own way

Love is not:

  • irritable 
  • resentful

Love does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth.


  • bears all things
  • believes all things
  • hopes all things
  • endures all things

Love never ends

Seriously, as long as we can read this list and feel even a slight twinge of conscience, we can improve in loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We can be more patient and kind. We can rejoice at other’s successes, instead of being nit-picky and jealous. We can be generous instead of tightly holding to our ministries and such. We can take the lower place, and concede our preferences. We can suffer long, not getting irritated, not being resentful.

We can speak the truth…but truly in love-with patience, perseverance, and humility. Without irritation, resentment, rudeness, arrogance.

We can put up with a whole lot, and then some more (bear all things). We can believe the best about our brothers and sisters, not assigning the worst possible motives (believes all things). Even in situations beyond what we can bear…including spiritual abuse, we can still hope for change, and for Christ to be gloried. And we can keep enduring. 

We can do the gross jobs that no one else wants…like washing feet or scrubbing toilets or any other numerous ways to humbly serve each other.

Love never ends. It never fails. Why? Because love is of God, and God is love. God loves with an everlasting love. True love is intrinsically tied to the character and person of God.

It’s a command not an option

While this kind of love is certainly applicable to marriage, that is not the primary interpretation. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13 to the church, to believers, functioning in the local body of Christ.

And you know, if we were to exhibit this kind of love towards each other, if this kind of sacrificial love overflowed and abounded, there would be no doubt in any person’s mind just who the real disciples of Christ were.

All people would want to experience that kind of love. Our churches would be flooded. 

As assemblies and as individuals, we can improve.

So, I ask again… how can we improve our love for the body of Christ? How can we be loving better? Where do we need to discard our arrogance or rudeness, and instead exhibit humility and kindness? How can we better bear, believe, hope, endure?

Bernadette Veenstra

    1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    There’s things I agree with here, others I don’t, but that’s not the point.

    While I didn’t see the Facebook post, I’m glad you mentioned Crawford’s comment, because that’s exactly how I feel about the whole thing. Love is one of those things that I’m often tired of hearing people say it and talk about it, but have somewhat become cynical, because I fail to see people act on it.

    Love should be something that has actions behind it, especially in the church. Sadly, far more often than not, I’m finding that we are following the empty word usage of love like the rest of the world.

    Just my opinion, but also one that I hope challenges people in any church, not just the assemblies.


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