Another recap this morning of some previously published material. Enjoy
Matthew 22: 37-40
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Love-It Matters to God
Love matters to God: a lot. How much does it matter to Him? Well, just read the above passage. Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is to Love God with everything we have. And the second greatest commandment is like it: we are to love our neighbor like we love ourselves.
Today begins a devotional series on some of the things God’s word has to say about the topic of love. The Bible has many, many things to say about love; there are so many that if we discussed them all this would become simply the Daily Love Devotional. So, we are just going to look at some of them.
The key take away for today is going to be to take note of the fact that Jesus didn’t say these two were the biggest suggestions; He said they are the biggest commandments! These aren’t things Jesus would have us do if we don’t mind, or if we agree or if we like it.
We are to love our neighbor just as we love ourselves, which for most of us is fairly completely. God says so. If we choose to NOT love our neighbor, we are basically thumbing our noses in the fact of Almighty God! That is really not a good idea.
It All Hangs on Love
In the previous section we discussed the same passage as we will briefly discuss today. Today our focus will be on the last sentence of the passage. What does it mean that all the law and the prophets hang on those two greatest commandments?
It’s a pretty visual and simple illustration Jesus used, really. Just picture a rack entitled, “love.” On the rack there are two pegs, “The Law” and “The Prophets.” Now picture what happens if there is not a rack entitled “love.” Got that? The pegs fall to the ground if they are not attached to a rack. Jesus was just illustrating that all of God’s expectations concerning His moral law can be met if we just do two things: Love God and love each other.
What Is Love Anyway?
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
First of all, this devotional is not going to be a deep theological dissertation on all the various meanings in the passage above. Someday perhaps we will do that, but not today. I am only using it to illustrate what love means.
Both of the types of love mentioned in the Bible can be found in the above passage. The Bible commonly uses two different Greek words, with quite different meanings. The two words from the Greek which are translated love are, “agape” and “phileo.“
The above passage goes something like this:
- Peter, do you agape me? Yes Lord, you know I phileo you.
- Peter, do you agape me? Yes, Lord, I phileo you.
- Peter, do you phileo me? Peter, mildly put out, replies, Lord you know I phileo you.
As I said, here we are not going to analyze that passage; it just works well for what we are going to do briefly, which is explain just what love is.
- Agape love is the kind of unconditional, sacrificial love which God The Father has for us. It is not based on feelings or based on if the recipient deserves it or not. It is the kind of love that is willing act and sacrifice even when another is totally undeserving. It is the kind of love both God The Father and Jesus Christ displayed when God sacrificed His Son for us, even though we did not deserve it. Agape love is the kind of love we are commanded to practice towards our fellow humans.
- Phileo love is the kind of love we might have for a friend, or brother or anyone who we are fond of. This love is feeling based; in other words, this is based on whether we actually like a person or not. It might be sacrificial in some circumstances, but only insofar as it meets the needs of the person sacrificing.
Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The kind of love He commanded was not phileo love, but agape love. Because we are not to commanded to love just those we actually feel something positive for; we are commanded to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Keep reading!
Who Is My Neighbor Anyway?
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
This passage in Luke is similar to the story we saw in Matthew 22:34-40 Again, a lawyer was trying to trick Jesus by asking Him what is the greatest of all the commandments; again, Jesus answered him by saying that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all you have and then to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
The lawyer, probably knowing he had failed on this count, attempted to excuse himself by asking, “And who is my neighbor:” Jesus then explained what He was trying to say by relating the well known story of the Good Samaritan, which readers can read here.
Most of us know the ending of this story; Jesus asked the lawyer, based on the story, just who had been a true neighbor to the man in need. The answer of course, was that the Samaritan who rendered aid to the wounded man was his neighbor.
The lesson in love shown here by the Samaritan who helped the hurt man is actually quite simple. It is really an illustration of how Jesus loves all people and how we, in turn are to love all people.
Our neighbor may be someone who is totally different from us and many even be an enemy. Any reading of the Gospels reveals quickly how Jews and Samaritans felt about each other. In this case the needy man’s own people, the priest and the Levite passed by him while the enemy, the Samaritan, stopped to help.
Our neighbor may be someone we have no obligation to help. Certainly the priest and the Levite were duty bound to help their fellow Jew, but they did not. The Samaritan, with no ethnic or religious duty whatsoever, stopped to help.
Our neighbor may be someone who poses potential risk or sacrifice to us if we help. There were many good reasons not to stop and help a person on the road to Jericho; it was a dangerous place filled with robbers. The hurt man may have only been a trap, for instance.
Our neighbor may be someone who doesn’t deserve our help and certainly cannot be expected to repay us. Not only did Jews hate Samaritans, but they would have treated them as second class citizens, no better than dogs. One of the reasons the priest and Levite would not have stopped is that even touching such a person would have made them ceremonially unclean. Stopping to help a man who probably thinks you are worse than a dog is a hard thing to do.
The Samaritan certainly did not know if he would ever see the money he spent returned. In fact, he dropped the man off at an Inn and left extra money in case his bill ran over. He even said he would come back by and make good on any more expense that may have arisen.
So then, who is our neighbor? Short answer: everyone. There is nothing that someone we may have contact with can do to make them undeserving of being our neighbor. All people, of all types, all races, all religions and all personalities are our neighbors. Jesus has commanded that we love those people as we love ourselves. We are to deal kindly in our encounters with all of our neighbors, as the Samaritan did with the wounded Jew. We are to show the kind of love Jesus showed for all humanity on the cross. He died not just for the lovable, but for all.
To Love Is NOT a Suggestion
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
We have already covered in a previous devotional where Jesus informed the lawyer trying to trick Him what the two greatest commandments are: Love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
That was not the only instance where Jesus made it crystal clear that to love our fellow man is not something He would really, really like us to do, but is a commandment. Jesus feels strongly about the things He has commanded us to do. In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” If we love Jesus, if we are one of His, we will strive to do as he says; in our devotional verse we learn that He commands us to love one another.
Isn’t that fairly simple? If we love Jesus, we will love one another.
How did God love us? John 3:16 tells us that:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“The world” is from an obscure Greek word which means “everybody in the world.” Okay, it’s not really obscure; it simply means what it says. The point is, we are to love the world as well. Before anyone gets excited and starts telling me that The Bible says not to love the world, let me define. Loving the world means loving the people of the world, not the things of the world.
Just in case the point was not clear, let’s recap what Jesus had to say about His commandment to love.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
1 John 4:21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Got all that? Seems pretty clear. In later devotionals we will discus just what it means to love our fellow man, and some ways in which we can do it.
But I Don’t Even LIKE That Guy!
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? The honest truth is, not everyone is likable. The honest truth is, we ourselves simply aren’t likable sometimes. Sometimes, for a myriad of different reasons, people just don’t find some other person’s company and presence to be pleasant. Gather a group of, say, a hundred or so people together, in something like a church environment and not all of those people are going to get along.
Despite the natural, God created differences in our personalities God has still commanded that we love one another. As I said, that’s a tough one. How, then are we to accomplish that? Well, the answer is: we DON”T accomplish that. If we are saved by the Grace of God, we allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish it through us.
As we have discussed before, Biblical love is not based on feelings. Part of Biblical love is to act in a loving manner towards those who are not lovable. This would include those who don’t deserve it, who can’t do anything for us, are jerks, mean or just generally unpleasant. That would include those who are jerks, mean and unpleasant directly to us! Wow, that’s tough.
Obviously, we are not going to feel pleasant feelings towards a person who is mean directly to us; therefore our love toward them cannot be based on feelings.
Biblical love, then, becomes an action; it is an act of the will rather than a feeling. If we allow our human weakness to dominate us, we will only allow our feelings to dictate our actions; filled with the Holy Spirit we can allow our actions to be the driving force, then perhaps our feelings will follow.
Let’s put this in action. Let’s look at Jesus on the cross. Who was to the left and right of Him as He hung dying on that cross? The two thieves of course. No doubt these were quite unpleasant individuals. In fact, they even joined with the crowd gathered at the crucifixion in mocking Jesus. Read Matthew 27:44.
In Luke 23, we see another aspect of this story. One of the thieves came to a saving faith in Jesus, as they hung there, and was promised everlasting life with Jesus in paradise. What if Jesus had just said, “Sorry, you should not have been so meant to me, you are out of luck!”?
And of course we can never forget what Jesus said to the mocking, killing crowd in general in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
All those people hated Jesus; they were killing him; they were mocking Him and most would ultimately reject Him. Yet, He loved them. He loved them because that was His Father’s will. He allowed the will of His Father to become His own will. That is what God wants from us.
Next time you say you can’t love someone because they are simply too unlikable, just remember what Jesus did on the Cross. If He had based His actions on how likable we are, we would be in deep deep trouble, right?
Laying Down Your Life
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Of course, when He made that statement, Jesus was directly referring the the fact that He was about to literally lay down His life for His friends. Jesus was about to literally lay down His life for the entire world and its sins. Is that necessarily the application for all of us? In certain circumstances, it might be. Any one of us could encounter a situation where literally laying down one’s life might be an appropriate expression of ultimate love. What about the rest of us? What if we are never asked to literally sacrifice our lives for a friend? Are we just off the hook? Hardly! What, then, might it mean to lay down one’s life for a friend?
We live in a culture today where people won’t even lay down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for their fellow man, much less their lives. The United States, particularly, is a “me” culture. “Looking out for number 1,” “If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will.” These are all reflections of the way we are. Yet, Jesus’ still said to lay down one’s life for friends is the ultimate expression of love.
We can do this by making others needs more important than our own. Jesus did that for us; He gave up his rightful place in Heaven to come here, live as a man, suffer and die just because our need for a savior was so great. Next time you have a situation where two needs are presented and only one can be met, meet your brother or sister’s need and let yours go unmet.
We can do this by forgiving. People wrong us; that is simply a fact. Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to forgive. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very people killing him on the cross in Luke 23:34. We simply have to learn to forgive the same way; we need to forgive no matter the seriousness of the offense that is committed against us
We can do this by sacrificing for others. Not only might we be required to meet another person’s need and leave ours unmet, but we might actually have to give up something our our own to meet their need. Maybe you have plans but a brother or sister has a need; give up your plans and be there for them.
We can do this by meeting the needs of people who don’t deserve it and cannot or will not do a thing for us. Some folks don’t deserve help. Some are not capable of doing anything for us in return. Some are capable, but in our hearts we know they wouldn’t give us a fire extinguisher if we burst into flames. Help them anyway.
Laying down one’s life for friends is similar to Jesus mandate that we pick up our cross and follow Him. He didn’t mean for us to literally pick up a cross, and He probably didn’t mean, in most cases, for us to literally die for or friends. Jesus was setting a pattern for us here, and in our efforts to be Christlike, we should follow that pattern.
Who have we laid our lives down for today? If the day is just starting, who will we lay down or lives for today?
This Is How They Know
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
In this simple verse, Jesus gave the world the authority to evaluate the quality of our Christianity by how we, as believers, love one another. He didn’t say they would know we are Christians if we go to church, read our Bibles, not drink beer or cuss or anything else. Jesus said the world would know we are His if we love each other.
The world cannot know that we love each other unless we show the world that love. As we have previously discussed, love has to become an action and an act of the will much more than just a feeling. People cannot see our feelings; they can only see the evidence of our feelings, whether bad or good.
What do people see when they come to our church? Do they see a group of people who rejoice in the opportunity to be with one another worshiping God? Or do they see a bunch of sullen people glued to pews? Are they themselves welcomed as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (unless we find out otherwise, and that’s another love topic), or do we ignore them at best or make them feel like intruders at worst?
What do people hear when they hear about our church? Do people report it as a place known for love and getting along? Or are we the church that always has some drama going on? What do we ourselves say about our church and the people in it? Are we kind and supportive of them in public or are we running around stabbing them in the back?
Are we ourselves showing every person we encounter the kind of love we are supposed to show to a brother or sister in Christ? We can’t go wrong treating everyone that way, really. Even if they aren’t, that might be the beginning of them becoming one.
Love is the key. We already know that everything God expects of us as believers flows from love. First from our love for Him, then our love for each other. And love is how we show the world who we are. Just ask Jesus.
Love Walk the Talk
1 John 3:17,18
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asked a very pointed question in that passage: He basically is asking how, if one person has sufficiency to help a brother in need but does not, he or she can even claim to be Christian?
That passage is all about “Walking the talk.” We can talk all day about how we love; we can even make claims about how we feel about another person. But until we put legs on that love, John is saying we cannot make a legitimate claim to belonging to Jesus.
John’s guidance to us is that we stop just talking about who we love; the Holy Spirit is guiding us to put our love into action. We have already covered the fact that Christlike love is much more than a feeling; it is actions.
Specifically, this passage is talking about helping others when you have resources and they do not. It doesn’t necessarily mean just financial resources, either. We all have something in abundance that another does not. It might be money; it might be time; it might be a skill. Whatever it is that we have an abundance of, God tells us that we should share that abundance with someone in need.
What can we do today to actually show somebody we love them? Is there someone you can think of? If you can think of someone today, take the opportunity to actually do something for them!
No Love? You Might Not Be His
1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death
We are continuing on with our devotional series on love. We have defined love, talked about what love is and covered ways love can be put into action. Today is not going to be a particularly uplifting devotional, but hopefully will be something to think about and consider.
The verse above clearly refers to Salvation. Salvation is when we pass from death to life, and to not be saved is to still abide and death. But there are two other key components of that passage we are going to briefly look at.
First is the statement that if we don’t love the brethren, we still abide in death. That is a harsh statement on the surface. If we profess salvation, and do not love our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, there are only two alternatives. One is that we are saved, but simply in full rebellion against Jesus’ command to love. In that case, we should certainly feel the conviction and chastisement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Option two is simple; our profession of faith may not have been real!
But, there is quite an upside as well. This we find in the statement, “we know.” When we talk about the Assurance of Salvation, we aren’t just talking about the fact that it is eternal and that we never lose it; we are also talking about the fact that we can KNOW we have salvation through Jesus Christ. And love is one of the tools God has so wonderfully given us to provide assurance. Feeling doubtful? We all have at times. Do you really, truly demonstrate love towards your Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Then, you are probably doubting for no good reason.
Turn lose of your doubts (the ones Satan so desperately wants you to hang on to), and get busy in your freedom in Jesus doing the thing or things He has actually called you to do!
Love, If You Have it You Probably Are His!
1 John 4:15,16
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Since yesterday’s devotion might not have been particularly uplifting, we are heading a different direction this morning. In case readers did not read yesterday’s, we discussed the possibility that a lack of expressed love in one’s life and conduct might be a warning sign that a person might question their actual personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today, we are going to briefly discuss the opposite condition. Let’s review love again very briefly. We have talked about love as a feeling we have towards particular people. In other words, there is “love” as expressed towards those we like, those we might be simply duty bound to love and those who will return something to us. We should all know by now, that is not the definition God uses for love. His love in an action based, self sacrificial love and is modeled on the actions of His Son Jesus Christ.
Can an unsaved person love extensively? Of course they can. The world is full of lost people who show great acts of love. Can an unsaved person love self sacrificially? Of course they can. History is full of examples of that. Is it likely that an unsaved person will live a lifestyle of self sacrificing love towards every single person they meet? Probably not; in fact, the odds are slim that most saved people could do that on a continuous basis.
However, read our verse. Dwelling in love could be defined as constantly living a state of self sacrificing love toward all those around you. And understand, that may also mean simply desiring to live that life, because as sinners we still fail daily. If that is true, then further reading reveals some encouraging news. A person who dwells in love, dwells in God, who dwells in that person.
So, while a lack of self sacrificing love in one’s life could be cause for worry; the presence of it as a lifestyle should be a very strong encouragement for a person to rest comfortably in their salvation through Jesus Christ.