And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that He answered them well, asked Him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31, ESV)
Love is the foundation of genuine obedience to God. You can always spot an unconverted ‘Christian’ because they groan when they think about the commandments of Christ. It seems as though they are always trying to ‘get by’ with fulfilling His law as minimally as possible. Yet, genuine Christians love God much like a child lives his father; they delight in doing His will (cf. Psa. 1:2). We find pleasure and fulfillment in following His Word, and we mourn when we err. Yes, we also fear eternal punishment for sin (cf. Matt. 10:28; 25:41, 46), but fear is no match for love. We aim to please God because we earnestly desire to please Him.
How? How do we get this love? It doesn’t come naturally. Those who approach God with a world-defined, feeling-driven kind of love do not know how to love God. We have all sinned against God (Rom. 3:23), and thus we – like Adam & Eve – are fearful of Him (cf. Gen. 3:8). We can never fully love God until we are reconciled with Him through Christ. We cannot be at peace with God until our sins have been forgiven. Thus, we cannot really love God until we have faithfully obeyed Christ. Those who love are those who have been forgiven. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Love is the foundation of genuine submission to our fellow man. Love doesn’t just refuse to do anything bad to others – it desires to do good to everyone. Again, you can always spot an unconverted ‘Christian’ because they show little desire to promote the happiness and comfort of others. Genuine Christians have captured our confidence because we know they will not only never intentionally hurt us but that they will also meet our needs at every opportunity.
How? How do we love our fellow man? Again, this doesn’t come naturally. Jealousy, selfishness, and hatred are what come naturally (Titus 3:3). We will never truly love our neighbor until the Spirit of Christ has changed us; “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). We cannot love without dying to self and being born again (cf. Gal. 2:20; John 3:3-5; Eph. 4:24; Col 3:10). Only then can we truly love with God-like love towards one another. “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22).
I’ve been thinking about love lately because the word “love” is carelessly thrown around these days, and how people understand it is vague at best. Yet, one’s definition of love is critically important. Society claims to admire love and wants it displayed more often, but society hates the very principles that alone can produce it and its qualities.
We cannot have fruit without roots. We cannot love God and our fellow man without obedient faith in Christ. The only way for love to increase in the world is for us to tell the world about God and the necessity of being regenerated in His Son.
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