"This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you." John
In these inspirations I write a lot about Love. The Love of God for us and our command to love one another. Several months ago, I received an e-mail message from one of our subscribers complaining that I was writing too much about love and not enough about righteousness and holiness. It seemed a strange criticism to me, because I can't really see how we can truly walk in righteousness and holiness without having a foundation in Love.
Jesus put it best when responding to the lawyer who asked which was the greatest commandment. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to "Love the Lord your God" and the second was to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Then he adds these remarkable words, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Mat 22:40 KJV) Think about it for a moment and you can see it is true. Following the 10 Commandments becomes a no-brainer if you have a deep abiding love for Christ and a deep abiding love for your fellow man. The problem is no so much a failure of resolve as it is a failure of love.
So, after laying the foundation of faith, we must begin our walk with love. First, we must love God "with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Mat 22:37 KJV). What does it mean to love God this way? It means that we put God's wishes above our own. It means that we take joy in doing his will. It means that we have a passionate desire to draw closer and closer to him everyday. Most of all it means remembering just what all he has done for us. We did not love God first. He loved us. He reached out to us in our sin, in our distress, in our sickness and he saved, he delivered and he healed. My Father says "If God never did anything other than save your soul, you should love him forever." And, yet, everyone reading this can probably tell of many, many things God has done for us above and beyond salvation. Just thinking of those things now causes love to bubble up inside of me so much that it hurts that I cannot express it as much as I wish. If I could maintain that love, doing his will would be a snap. But to maintain that love, I have to maintain my focus on him and I become easily distracted. And my distraction is Satan's opportunity to lead me astray. So, like Peter I must keep my eyes on the savior or I will begin to sink.
Secondly, we must love each other. It is easy to say that we love God, but do we love the ones that he loves? I heard a Catholic priest say once: "To live with the saints in heaven, Oh that will be glory. To live with the saints on earth, now, that's another story." Frequently, it's easier to proclaim a love of God than it is to act out our love to each other. But the Apostle John made it quite clear that we can't have it both ways saying we love God, but not loving others: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20 KJV)
Those are pretty bold words especially coming from someone who once asked Christ to bring down fire from heaven on a town that rejected their ministry. But God gave John a ministry of love so great that it is said in his declining years when he would preach, he would be carried in on a stretcher and he would lean up on one elbow and simply say "Beloved, love one another" and be carried out again. It was as if those were the only instructions needed.
And so they were. Once we really and truly love God and love one another many of the great mysteries of theology and ethics disappear. Formal religion then becomes swallowed up in personal relationship: first our relationship with God, and second our relationship with each other. And why not, Christianity is founded on the solid rock of God's love revealed in Christ's death on the Cross and His subsequent resurrection providing us the greatest gift of all eternal life. "God so loved......."
So, if I have written overmuch about love, it is God's fault. He simply loved me so much that it is hard to think about him without also thinking about love.
Lord, let me learn your great path to righteous living by loving you and by loving others more. Amen