The Bible tells us we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This is a verse that virtually all people know of, whether they are Christians or not. With that said, there are two things in this verse that are extremely important.
First, God isn’t asking us to love simply our physical neighbors. He doesn’t want us merely loving the people close to us. Our neighbors are everybody. God commands us to love all people. No matter the ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.—God tells us to love all people. This means we can’t look at somebody and say, “I don’t care about you.” God cares about them, so you should as well.
Even more, loving all people means loving people you disagree with and find annoying. The love we’ve been told to give to others is not grounded on common interests or similar stories. It’s an agape love—a sacrificial love. A love that Jesus showed.
Second, we are to love others as we love ourselves. What’s the point here? The point is that we love ourselves so much, so we should be loving others with the same amount that we love ourselves. Better yet, the Bible teaches us to look out for others’ needs before our own, as that’s what Jesus did by going to the cross (Philippians 2:1–11). That is the greatest example of humility we find in the Bible. But it’s also an amazing example of love.
We are to be people driven by the truth of God that is wrapped in the love of God.
And this is not some cushy, frivolous love. It’s not the love you have for a juicy steak. It’s not a love you have for your team winning the Super Bowl. It’s a love of sacrifice. This is part of the issue—even with Christians. As believers, we may sometimes have a distorted view of love. We have bought into the world’s definition of love that is controlled by ever-changing emotions. To be sure, emotions are a part of love, but love is not mere emotions.
Love of Complacency
There are at least two different types of love. Right here I want to talk about the love of complacency, which is the love you have for ice cream or something else. This is the love the world offers. It’s love that won’t get you through the good times and bad. It’s a love that won’t allow you to look past the faults of others. It’s a love that doesn’t cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). It’s a love that, ultimately, is still about you.
The foundational issue here is that this type of love is based on the loveliness of the object. Pizza has to taste good for me to love it. Ice cream needs to be sweet for me to enjoy it. Steak needs to be juicy for me to find it delicious. Unfortunately, this is the same type of love many people have for others. It’s a love that is rooted in how other people behave. In short, it’s a transactional love. (Maybe this is why America’s divorce rate is 50 percent!)
The love of complacency is not what God calls you to. He doesn’t want you to love people based on their loveliness. If that were the case, there would be no such thing as love. So how does He want us to love others?
Love of Benevolence
Contrasted with complacent love, benevolent love has as its foundation simply your good will. In other words, in benevolent love you’re making the intentional choice to love people. And why is that? Why does God call us to love others? First, because He loves all people. Second, because all people are made in His image.
Before I got married, I had been dating my then-girlfriend Shale for many years. I had thought about marriage but could never pull the trigger. I knew I loved her—that wasn’t an issue. The issue was my love for her, many times, was based on emotions. Again, you need to have emotions in your love for others, but it should not be based on emotions. One day, after speaking with my pastor about it, I realized I needed to love her by choice. In other words, I needed to be intentional about loving her no matter what happens in our relationship. It wasn’t but a month later that I proposed and we’ve now been married for almost four years.My mind was focused on complacent love when it needed to be on benevolent love. It’s not that I didn’t love her, but simply had a skewed definition on what it truly meant to love somebody in a sacrificial, covenantal way. This is biblical love–the love we are to have for all people, regardless of their background. Love like Jesus loves.
 I wouldn’t know anything about the Super Bowl. I’m a Vikings fan. It’s rough out here.