Love is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. From secular music artists to pastors in the pulpit, everyone says that we need to love. Love is something that is desperately needed in the Church today but we need to understand, as I say, “Love in Context.”
In order to answer the title question, let’s review scripture, which is where all things should come if we are Christians.
Matthew 22:34-40 states, “Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
(Note: all scripture from the NET Bible Translation)
In the above scripture, the Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment in the law is the greatest. This is important to remember when reading his response because this is the Law Giver himself telling mankind what the number one commandment which he gave us is. His answer to the question is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5 which states, “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”
Let’s stop there for a second to realize what Jesus is saying. He is telling us that the number one command we have as believers in the Most High is to love God. This is the fundamental nature of our entire being as Christians. Love for God is our number one duty, it is should be the first thing on our minds in the morning, throughout the day, and in the evening. Love for God should drive every single action that we do.
In Luke 14:26 Jesus states the following, ““If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Now, in context, Jesus is telling us we must be willing to lose everything for the sake of following him. But one cannot dismiss the fact that Jesus clearly states that we must hate everything that has to do with this world. He says this because we must put the love of God first and foremost in our lives. One cannot have any attachment in this world if you are willing to lose all for the sake of following Christ.
Our God is worthy of the utmost praise and dedication. Our lives, our personal desires, and our free will should be lost to us once we are called into righteousness by God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:34-40 that God alone is the only one worthy enough to receive every single ounce of our love. Christ calls this the “first and greatest commandment” meaning that there are none equal to it or that even rival it.
The second commandment, which is like it because it deals with holy commanded love, not because it is equal to it, is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
This commandment, like the first given, can be found in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 19:18 the Lord says, “You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” In the larger context of the surrounding verses we are dealing with unjust judgment, showing partiality for poor or rich, not slandering, not standing idly by when someone’s life is at stake, not hating, reproving so that sin is not incurred, and not taking vengeance or bearing grudges.
Of note, not here, nor anywhere in scripture, does it say to love everyone and ignore their sin. On the contrary we are told to reprove, correct, and point out when blatant sins are being conducted by the people of God. This is clearly seen all throughout scripture, from the prophets to the apostles. We are told to do this first and foremost because we love God and want to see his righteousness thrive in all situations and second because we love our neighbors and do not want to see them suffer the wrath of God.
As a parent, I cannot imagine allowing my children to sin. My duty as a parent is to bring them up with sound biblical instruction, in the love of Christ and a healthy fear of God. If my children disobey the commands which the Lord has given I correct them on the spot. Likewise, when I am not there, my wife will do the same and so will anyone who has charge over them at any specific time.
Now, as Christians, we are children of the Most High God. Our Lord has given us commandments and certain ways we should live our lives. When we, as children of God, disobey the commandments of the Lord we are corrected by those who have studied the Word of God and know what it says. That is a command that our leaders have from the Lord as shown in multiple portions of scripture.
Example; 2 Timothy 3:16,17: “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”
Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this so that we will know scripture can be used for reproof and correction. If God did not love you He would not desire for you to be corrected when you do wrong. But God does love you and He has given the scripture for your continued sanctification. Being disciplined is a good thing because it means someone cares enough about you to want to help you succeed.
To love God above all, and afterward to love your neighbor as yourself, is the way we live a righteous life. So ultimately this is a discussion about righteousness. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary alludes to the fact that man’s righteousness is defined in terms of God’s righteousness because there are none that are righteous upon the Earth. Righteousness is living a holy life to God, not to man.
This is the same with love. True love can only be defined in the terms of God’s love for us. So our love must mirror that which God has displayed. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer righteous judgment for our sins. God gave up His Son and the son gladly obeyed.
This shows that the true biblical love of God is a sacrificial, loyal, and obedient love. We are to be willing to sacrifice all for Him. We are to be loyal to Him above all else. We are to be obedient to Him and not our own desires. In the Old Testament this love is displayed through the concept of Hesed. That is a loyal love. In the New Testament this love is displayed through Agape, or a covenant love. This love is one that is totally given over, or devoted, to another person’s welfare. It is unselfish love that requires loyalty; not to man but to God.
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