In Mark 12:28-34 our Lord Jesus answered the scribe’s question concerning the greatest commandment. Quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 and Leviticus 19:18, Christ said, “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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). From this we learn that loving God and loving our neighbor are inextricably linked, for we cannot sincerely love one without loving the other. The Apostle John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I John 4:20-21). In other words, a person who claims to love God and yet does not possess a sincere love for others does not really love God. Indeed, he is fooling himself, but probably not anybody else.
When God, by His sovereign grace and power, unites a sinner to His risen Son by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural transformation occurs–– a transformation that leads to a life of love towards God and neighbor. This is the new life that we, as God’s redeemed children, have been called, enabled, and empowered to live.
The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, exhorts Christians to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). This “new self” that we are commanded to “put on” bears the likeness of God Himself. We are even told to imitate Him. “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1, 2).
To imitate God is to imitate Christ. And to imitate Christ is to live a life of love towards others. What does this mean exactly? In part, it means that we will be willing to make sacrifices for others. It means that we will forgive those who may have offended us or treated us unfairly. It means that we will make ourselves vulnerable by inviting people into our homes and into our lives, even at the risk of getting hurt. It means that we will be quick to encourage and slow to criticize. It means that we will speak the truth in love, not with a desire to be right. It means that when things go well for others we will be happy for them, not secretly envious. It means that we will not compare ourselves to others, but rather, pray for them. It means that we will seek to be a spiritual encouragement, not a spiritual hindrance. It means that we will put others needs and interests before our own. In a word, it means that we will treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Members of Christ Church, let us never think that loving God ever exempts us from loving one another. Loving one another means more than just kind gestures and cordial greetings. It entails the giving of self in the service of others for the building up of the church. In fact, love has its greatest expression in the context of the local church. For it is in the local church that God communicates His beloved Son to His people through Word and sacrament and we communicate our love to Him through biblical worship and sacrificial service to others …. “especially to the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Our Lord summed up the whole Law in this simple way: love God and love your neighbor. Jesus, our faithful High Priest, perfectly obeyed that Law in our stead and then went beyond the Law to lay His life down as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. Why? In order that by grace through faith we would receive the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life. In grateful response to God’s ineffable mercy, may we seek to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and sincerely love others as we ourselves would want to be loved. For the Christian, this is nothing short of living life to the fullest!
“Faith deals with invisibles, but God hates that love
which is invisible.” - Thomas Watson
- Pastor Jon