(I apologize up front for the length of this post. Actually, if you take out the scriptures quoted, it would be brief, but I didn’t want you to have to hunt them down on your own.)
Let’s spend some time working on this concept of love. First, a few teachings of Jesus:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – from Matthew 10:37-39
All other loves and relationships are secondary to love for God.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – from John 15:12-17
The highest expression of love is to surrender one’s self for others.
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served…so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. – from John 13:1-5
The full extent of Jesus’ love was shown by serving others. Even the one He knew would betray Him.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.” – from John 21:15-18
One way to express love for God is to take care of His people.
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. – from Luke 6:27-36
The true test of whether we love others is in how we treat those who do not love us.
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life…I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. – from John 5:39-42
Love for God goes beyond mere knowledge of scripture.
If you love me, you will obey what I command….Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. – from John 14:15-24
Love includes obedience. Calling disobedience “love” does not make it so.
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them…Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." – from Luke 7:36-50
Those who fail to see the full nature of their sinfulness believe they have been forgiven little, thus their expressions of love are small. They may have trouble grasping why people would feel called to express their love in a greater way than mere law-keeping.
This woman expressed her love in a way that was never specifically authorized in scripture, yet Jesus says she loved much, not that she was disobedient and offering unauthorized worship.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. – from Mark 10:17-22
Jesus said this man lacked something that was never commanded specifically by scripture. No where had God specifically commanded His people to sell everything and give it to the poor. The tithe was the command.
By this, Jesus was getting to the heart of the matter. The man loved his possessions and money more than he loved God. Until that was corrected, the rest of his command-keeping was in vain.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Luke 11:42
The Pharisees were known for meticulously keeping the details of the law, yet they missed the boat on the big things.
Yes, the call is to keep them all…not just the little outward details. However, if we keep “lesser” commands in an unloving and arrogant way, are we not exactly like the Pharisees Jesus was speaking to here?
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." – from John 13:34-35
We are to be known as followers of Jesus because of our love for one another. I’ve found us much more often to be known for other things. That tells me we ought to work on our loving skills. It’s a matter of priority…if the greatest commands are to love and that’s not what we’re known for, then it seems we’re not living out the greatest commands very well, are we?
Sorry for the length here. The goal of my life is to be concise! ; )
But loving God and loving others is one of the most important topics we could ever write or speak about. It’s worth our time.
So, if you’ll keep coming back, we’ll continue to work on this concept of love and what it looks like.