Love – the greatest commandment
Love is one of the fundamental parts of the Bible and as such it must be a central part of the believer’s life. Throughout the pages of the Bible the message of God is one of love and this is revealed in His forgiveness, patience, mercy, gentleness and kindness.
Because the love of God is so great in the Bible it should come as no surprise that the greatest commandment in the Bible is this one:
Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
The unfortunate fact is that many people either ignore the law of love or they only partially obey it. Yet God is asking us for total commitment to this law.
The love of God
God has shown us great mercy and love. If we accept this, then we naturally want to show mercy and love to others. If we don’t, then we are not living a truly Christian life.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11
God has given us great love even though we don’t deserve it. In a similar fashion, we must give our love to others whether they deserve it or not.
The love of God is inexhaustible.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (NIV)
Throughout the Psalm the phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated. God’s love will never run out, because it flows from a well that will never run dry. In His love we will always see kindness, mercy and faithfulness.
The love of God is forgiving.
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7
We see the extraordinary love of God when we read that He tenderly searches for sinners and then with joy forgives them. This is the amazing love he has for each one of us.
The love of God is beyond measure and is forever.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be separated from the love of God. When the times are tough some people are driven away from God, when in fact this is the time that they should be coming to Him and seeking his immeasurable love for us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him.
Indeed it is impossible to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. If we just think about Christ’s death we can see the proof of his unconquerable love.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
The love of God is sacrificial – His love is not self-centred. He loved us so dearly that he gave us the life of His Son – the highest price that he could pay. Jesus, in turn, willingly gave his life so that we could seek reconciliation with God. In a similar manner, we must be willing to give up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love.
The love of Jesus
The example of Jesus Christ is the one which we can look at and try to copy. The apostle Paul was humbled by the love of Christ:
For in Christ Jesus …. the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6
Our love for others
So what does the Bible give as guidelines for our love to other humans.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
The society we live in confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward towards others and not inward toward ourselves. God’s love is completely unselfish. This type of love tends to go against what we are naturally inclined to do as we must give love and not expect anything in return.
The requirements for our love
Love is not an option that we can either do or not do – the Bible commands that we show it to not only the Lord God but also to those around us. It is critical for those living true Christianity:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34
The type of love required is of self-sacrifice and servanthood. It is one of “selfless giving” where we love not only friends but also enemies and persecutors. Love is the key to walking as a true Christian, because we cannot grow spiritually while we hate others. When we grow in our relationship with God we will grow in our relationships with others.
Love is not an uncontrollable emotion.
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 14:1
Love is a choice that we make. We can choose to be concerned with people’s wellbeing and treat them with respect, whether or not we feel affection toward them. If we make the choice to love others then God will assist us to express this love.
Some people think that love is just a feeling – this is not correct. For love can also be expressed through your actions.
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18
The greatest act of love we can do
Out of all the love we can give, the greatest act of love is to love God.
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” John 12:29-31
As Jesus says, these two commandments summarise all of God’s law. Take these two commandments and let them guide you in your thoughts, decisions and actions. If you do this, then you will find your life will be a lot more happy and fulfilled.
The last words on love can come from the apostle Paul:
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 1 Thess. 3:12