Love God, Love Others

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

“Spirit-filled souls are ablaze for God.” -Samuel Chadwick
Have you ever wondered God really desires from us? Well, here we have His concise answer: Love God, love others. This sounds simple enough until we start living it out. First of all, to love the Creator or the created rightly is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit within us. And while it is perhaps easier for us to imagine ourselves loving God rightly and wholeheartedly, loving others is a huge stretch. Seriously?
“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved.” -Thomas Merton
The mean ones, the dirty ones, the obnoxious ones, those who make fun of us or spit in our faces? It is those we are supposed to love–readily, entirely, wholeheartedly? Are you kidding me?

In our verses for today, the expert in the law who posed the question to Jesus was also in agreement with the answer he received. Mark tells us:

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:32-34)

“God loves you as though you are the only person in the world, and He loves everyone the way He loves you.” -Augustine
Jesus came to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the Old Testament Law. However, I New Testament Law the Lord came to usher in and which continues to remain in effect is simply the law of love. All biblical Law is fulfilled in this one word–love. All obedience begins with affection and nothing is done properly that does not begin there. Love is to be the motivating factor of our actions. Paul tells us:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

“The way to disengage the heart from the love of one object is to fasten it in positive love to another. It is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing the worth and excellence of the latter that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new. The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”
-Thomas Chalmers
God wants us to love as He loves–selflessly, freely, graciously, compassionately, kindly, gently, humbly, and patiently. A tall order to be sure and one which definitely requires the work of the Holy Spirit! Those controlled by the Holy Spirit are evidenced by their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Love is not a paste gem of Hollywood nor is it fueled by the lust of the flesh or the greed of the eye. The Bible teaches of the love God requires in 1 Corinthians. Paul gives us fourteen predications defining the way of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

“For the love of God is broader than the measures of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.” -Frederick William Faber
The motivation behind our actions is paramount. For instance, we can be obedient to God’s Word–motivated by love–and it is a sweet smelling sacrifice to the Father as well as an experience of a bit of heaven on earth for us. On the other hand, we can dutifully and laboriously fulfill our call to obedience–as the religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day–and be nauseating in His sight. The motive makes the difference. Remember, we love Him because He first loved us.

Take It to Heart

“To love God, to serve Him because we love Him, is … our highest happiness … Love makes all labor light. We serve with enthusiasm where we love with sincerity.” (Hannah More)

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