A certain lawyer asked Jesus, "Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?"
Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: 'Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others."
At one time in my Christian life I was troubled over the command to love God so completely. How could I ever measure up to such a high standard? Two very important considerations have helped me to desire to love and please Him completely.
God's Character and Holy Spirit Motivate Love
First, the Holy Spirit has filled my heart with God's love, as promised in Romans:
We know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.
Second, by meditating on the attributes of God and the wonderful things He has done and is doing for me, I find my love for Him growing. I love Him because He first loved me.
How could God love me so much that He was willing to die for me? Why should God choose me to be His child? By what merit do I deserve to be his ambassador to tell this good news of His love and forgiveness to the world? On what basis do I deserve the privilege of His constant presence and His in-dwelling Spirit, of His promise to supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory? Why should I have the privilege -- denied to most of the people of the world who do not know our Savior -- of awaking each morning with a song in my heart and praise to Him on my lips for the love and joy and peace that He so generously gives to all who place their trust in his dear Son, the Lord Jesus?
I was a new Christian when I proposed to Vonette, who is now my wife. She had been an active church member, although -- I discovered later -- she was not a Christian at that time. Imagine her distress when, in my zeal for Christ, I explained to her that I loved God more than I loved her and that He would always be first in my life. I failed to explain, nor did I even realize at the time, that it was exactly because of my love for God that I was able to love her so much. Later, before we were married, she too experienced God's love and forgiveness and became His child.
Through the years He has become first in her life also, and because He is now first in each of our lives, we enjoy a much deeper love relationship than we could otherwise have known. Though my responsibilities in His service take me to many parts of the world and I am often away from her and our home, we both find our joy and fulfillment in Him. The times when we are privileged to be together are all the richer because of our mutual love for Him and His love for us.
The one who has not yet learned to love God and to seek Him above all else and all others is to be pitied, for that person is missing the blessings that await all who love God with all their heart, soul and mind.
Loving God Helps Us Love Others
It is natural for you to fulfill the command to love your neighbors as yourself if you truly love God with all your heart, soul and mind. If you are properly related to God on the vertical plane, you will be properly related to others on the horizontal plane.
For example, billiard balls, rolling freely on a table, naturally bounce away from each other because of the nature of their construction. But if we tie strings to several balls and lift them perpendicular to the table, the balls will cluster together.
When individual Christians are vitally yoked to Christ and related to God and are walking in the Spirit, loving Him with all their hearts, souls and minds, they will fulfill God's command to love others as themselves.
The apostle Paul explains:
If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him or steal from him. And you won't sin with his wife or want what is his or do anything else the Ten Commandments say is wrong. All ten are wrapped up in this one, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love does no wrong to anyone. That's why it fully satisfies all of God's requirements. It is the only law you need.
It is love for God and for others that results in righteousness, in fruit, and in glory to Christ.
Also, you were commanded to love others because such love testifies to your relationship with the Father. You demonstrate that you belong to Christ by your love for others. The apostle John practically equates your salvation with the way you love others when he says that if you don't love others, you do not know God, for He is love.
If someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him -- how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.
I demand that you love each other as much as I love you.
Viewing Others (and Ourselves) as God's Creation Motivates Love
As a Christian you should love your neighbor because your neighbor is a creature of God made in the image of God; because God loves your neighbor; and because Christ died for your neighbor. Following the example of our Lord, you should love everyone, even as Christ did. You should devote your life to helping others experience His love and forgiveness.
Jesus also said:
There is a saying, "Love your friends and hate your enemies." But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too.
If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that.
When Christians begin to act like Christians and love God, their neighbors, their enemies and especially their Christian brothers -- regardless of color, race or class -- we will see in our time, as in the first century, a great transformation in the whole of society. People will marvel when they observe our love in the same way people marveled when they observed those first century believers saying, "How they love one another."
I counsel many students and older adults who are not able to accept themselves. Some are weighted down with guilt because of unconfessed sins; others are not reconciled to their physical handicaps. Still others feel inferior mentally or socially. My counsel to one and all is, "God loves you and accepts you as you are. You must do the same. Get your eyes off yourself! Focus your love and attention on Christ and on others. Begin to lose yourself in service for him and for your fellow man."
God's kind of love is a unifying force among Christians! Paul admonishes us to "put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" that our "hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love." Only God's universal love can break through the troublesome barriers that are created by human differences. Only a common devotion to Christ -- the source of love -- can relieve tension, ease mistrust, encourage openness, bring out the best in people, and enable them to serve Christ together in a more fruitful way.
One mother shared that the discovery of these principles enabled her to be more patient and kind to her husband and children. "The children were driving me out of my mind with all of their childish demands," she confided. "I was irritable with them, and because I was so miserable, I was a critical and nagging wife. No wonder my husband found excuses to work late at the office. It is all different now -- God's love permeates our home since I learned how to love by faith."
A husband reported, "My wife and I have fallen in love all over again, and I am actually enjoying working in my office with men whom I couldn't stand before I learned how to love by faith."
Just as surely as "those who are in the flesh (the worldly, carnal person) cannot please God," so in your own strength you cannot love as you ought.
You cannot demonstrate agape, God's unconditional love for others, through your own efforts. How many times have you resolved to love someone? How often have you tried to manufacture some kind of positive, loving emotion toward another person for whom you felt nothing? It is impossible, isn't it? In your own strength it is not possible to love with God's kind of love.
By nature people are not patient and kind. We are jealous, envious and boastful. We are proud, haughty, selfish and rude, and we demand our own way. We could never love others the way God loves us!
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Love By Faith, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.
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