"LOVE" - The Great And Foremost Commandment

Mark Thompson

Our Lord said: "You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment'' (Mat. 22:37).

So if love is number one, what's number two?

"The second is like it." He said: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

The most important, and the second most important command, both concern love. This is interesting in light of the fact of how little love is stressed in most of the "Christian" denominations today.

If we were to squeeze the entire Bible down into a single word (something even Readers' Digest wouldn't do), without question the word would have to be "love." Love is the stow of the whole Bible, from the Garden of Eden in Genesis, to Heaven in Revelation. But what is so odd is how little this is taught among those who profess to follow after Jesus; and when it is taught, it's done so poorly. I sat down and figured out all of the Bible classes and sermons I've been exposed to in the denomination I grew up in. It totals over 3,000. But what is so interesting is that I can remember every lesson I ever heard on love. I really can. All three of them.

A Church of Christ woman took a Pentecostal man to the "Local Church" in Tampa one Sunday (it was one of the two or three dozen "local churches" in Tampa), and the preacher was teaching, ironically, about denominational error. After the "service" the man asked the woman, "Don't you all ever talk about love?" What the man didn't understand was that people can only talk about what they are qualified through experience to talk about. For example, football players talk about football, construction workers talk about construction, and Church of Christ Preachers talk about denominational error.

I remember one of the lessons I heard on love. Have you ever heard this same lesson? A highly intellectual man droning on behind a podium, "The actual definition of love is active good will. Now, in the original Greek there are three word to signify ...zzzzzz." It's one of those lessons where ten minutes into it everything goes black, and the next thing you know, everyone is singing the "invitation song." So help me, if I hear another sermon preached on love from the intellectual standpoint, I will scream! (People with heart conditions and pregnant women should not attend that meeting).

For once in our lives, let's look at love for what love really is. Love is not intellectual, and therefore cannot be reasoned. Love is an emotion that must be felt to be understood. We can all relate to love, because we have all had the experience, like your parents bailing you out of a jam...again, hearing your baby laugh for very first time, your children bringing home children of their own for you to spoil, and who can ever forget gazing into the moist eyes of a women dressed in white, swearing up and down that she'll love only you for the rest of her life. These, or similar experiences, are things we can draw or in order to help us understand what the scriptures teach us about God's relationship to us, our relationship to Him, and our relationship to each other.

We see that God loved us so much that when our prototypes faltered in the Garden of Eden, He immediately set a plan into motion that would save us from our own stupidity and rebellion (Gen. 3:15), despite the fact that He would be the one to pay the price and not us (Jn. 3:16). Jesus taught us that we should love Him so much that we would hate those we hold dearest by comparison (Lk. 14:26). He also commanded us to love one another (Jn. 15:17), and that the greatest expression of love is laying down one's own life for another (Jn. 15:13). Jesus said that our love is the way other people will know we are His disciples (Jn. 13:35).

The bottom line is that we cannot have a proper relationship with God or man, unless we have genuine love for both. Love is to be the motivating factor in our lives, and the very essence of our being as we strive to become more like Ged. As scripture teaches, "God is love" (I Jn. 4:8). This is the substance of which God IS. One has only to look at the model given us in the life of our Lord Jesus. His whole life was serving man in love, teaching man to live sinless, to be free from sin--a gift of love. His love is seen in His anger at the religious hypocrites who were obstructing truth, because of His love for those searching for truth. We see His love in His sorrow at the impending destruction of Jerusalem because of His love for the inhabitants. The ultimate proof of love was His Death on the cross, which provided for all men the gift of eternal life.

Love is to be what we do, what we feel, what we teach, and what we ARE. Love must flow from the heart and be encouraged and nourished. Again, Love cannot be reasoned out and deduced. Many times I have been guilty of forsaking love in neglecting to teach others about the salvation available through Christ Jesus, because I was too busy doing word studies, intellectual pursuits of scripture, etc. There is always a place for these, but they must not take the place of active love. John says, "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."

Let us not be a group of religious intellectuals, but rather a group of God-like people who are deeply in love with our Father, our Lord, our brothers, and our friends in the world who are ignorant of salvation. We must have great knowledge to know the truth, and to have the ability to perceive Satan's hand in our lives, but let us be known as the group that loves. Amen.