What is the ONE THING that we better make sure we get right if we want to be following Jesus Christ? That was the question an expert in the religious law of the Jewish people asked Jesus during His ministry. What a great question!
Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
What is the biggest priority of being a follower of Christ?
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus is saying we need to focus on living out these two “summary” commandments. The Christian walk can be boiled down to FOUR WORDS:
LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS
No small task! But… maybe we can find an “escape clause”. Who are the neighbors/others we are to love?
Matthew 5:44-45a [Jesus] But I say, love your enemies! Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.
Jesus didn’t put any restrictions on the “others” we are to love. The annoying others. The irritating others. The obnoxious others. The difficult others. The hurtful others. The evil others. Even the enemy others. No wiggle room there!
So what kind of love is Jesus talking about?
So much of what our culture refers to as “love” has nothing to do with love. Some of what is called love is nothing more than hormones and physical lust. Most of what is called love is selfish and self-serving. We “love” in order to get what WE want out of the relationship (safety, security, a cure for loneliness, etc.). Then when we aren’t getting what we want from the relationship, we quickly saw we “fell out of love”. That is not love, and definitely not what Jesus was talking about.
The Greek word in the passages where Jesus spoke about love is “agape”. It refers to a SACRIFICIAL love. God loved us by sending His Son to die as a sacrifice for us. Jesus loved us by dying on the cross to bear our sin, sacrificing Himself. And Jesus loved us while we were His enemies. Jesus demonstrated agape, sacrificial love in everything He did. Careful reading of Scripture will reveal that Jesus NEVER performed miracles or used His power and authority to serve Himself. He only used it to serve others. He loves us with sacrificial love, and commands us to show that same love to others.
One of the best definitions of love I have found is this:
Giving others what they NEED (not want) the most,
when they DESERVE it the least,
at great PERSONAL COST (SACRIFICE).
Sacrificial love is not based on FEELINGS. It is a DECISION to love with this kind of love. It is a sacrificial commitment of the will to CHOOSE to love.
If we say we love Jesus, it should be VISIBLE in our lives. We should want to follow Him and live according to His ways.
Jesus gave us a very clear, straightforward way to measure our love for Him. A way that allows us to KNOW if we really love Him.
John 14:15 [Jesus] If you love Me, obey My commandments.
John 14:21a [Jesus] Those who accept My commandments and obey them are the ones who love Me.
John 14:23-24a Jesus replied, “All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me.”
John 15:10-14 [Jesus] When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are My friends if you do what I command.
1 John 2:3-6 And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love Him. That is how we know we are living in Him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
1 John 5:2-3 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey His commandments. Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.
Jesus obviously wanted us to understand that our obedience is the measure of our love for Him. That also means that our disobedience clearly reveals our LACK OF LOVE for Him.
Our obedience is something we can see in our own life, and so can everybody else! That should prompt us to ask ourselves…
When people look at MY life, is my love for Jesus VISIBLE to them by my obedience?