I have heard people say that many things are the central theme of Christianity. Some of the most common are: the church, missions, power/gifts, denying self, evangelism, the combination of prophets and apostles etc. They usually say that this one thing (insert noun here) is the one thing that absolutely everyone must do.
Most often it's evangelism that gets shoved down everyone's throats. If it is evangelism, then how do we reconcile that to the command that Jesus gave us?
The command was (and is) to love one another. Jesus said that it is by having love that the world will know that we are His children. He went further by saying that if we use our gifts without love then it's like a clanging bell. Ouch!
At this point let's take a quick detour and identify what kind of "love" we're speaking about. The kind of love that God was (and is) looking for can be read in many New Testament passage and in Leviticus 19:18. I wrote God’s idea of fasting is to love others (which is based on Isaiah) to show how serious God is about love.
Jesus said that loving one another (and loving ourselves) is the basis for our Christian life. It's the basis for all the gifts too (to avoid "clanging" – or emptiness) and it's also the key to evangelism too. It underpins the entire functioning of the church body. To better understand how the church body (including evangelism and missions) could function as a result of love, please read How do we love others – a parable of the church body
There really is no way around it. We are to help the people around us.
Think of any biblical figure and read their story – they all (without exception) reached out to the people in their immediate environment. They rebuilt walls, they fought for their family, they protected people under threat, they led their people, they interceded for their family/friends/king/city/nation/whatever. All the stories of great people had only one thing in common, they chose to reach out to help the people around them.
Look at God's emotional response when we don't reach out in love (intervene) to people around us:
He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him … Isaiah 59:16
The central theme of the bible is to love the people around you. If you do that, God will support you in your quest to love those around you as He spells out in isaiah 58:6-12 very clearly. He makes wonderful promises to you, if you will love the people around you.
HOW to love? How you love people around you is pretty much dependant on what you have to offer (money, talent, clothing, time, passion, encouragement etc.) and what you're willing to ask God to give to them (faith).
Our own lives will be better off if we love. The lives of those around us will be better off if we love. Gradually if enough people love, the broken fabric of society can be restored. And if that wasn't enough reason, here is one more reason: God digs it when we love. God is love and God loves everyone – the good and the bad.
What do we have to lose? Well, we have a few things to lose. Loving can mean getting close to someone else and sharing their sadness or loss. What could we lose? Our separation, our loneliness, our silence, our pride and so on.
But in your determination to love people, make sure you keep your boundaries! When loving people we can forget to love ourselves. Love them but do not lose yourself. Do not let people step over boundaries and do not be a doormat. Love yourself and then you will continue to have love to give. If you do not love yourself, you will lose energy and lose passion and there will be nothing to give others. That's why it says to love others AS you love yourself. Notice and think about the "AS".