Tag Archives: Love God

Taproot – Part 4

“I command you to love me!”  That’s a non-starter, isn’t it?  The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is to love God with all your heart and soul.  But, can love be commanded?  But, instead of hearing the word, command, as a strict order to do something we don’t want to do, think of it like this: This “command” is the most important thing to remember to practice so that things will go well for you. 

God’s 10 commandments were given after He first had arranged a rescue for the people from slavery. 

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”  –  (Deuteronomy 5:6)

His commands were given to protect us from falling back into any kind of slavery.  In other words, His commands were given to bless us.

Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”

“Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.”  –  (Deuteronomy 5:33; 6:3)

Our love for God is not grudging and forced, it is the natural response toward our Rescuer who loves us and wants the very best for us.  Our love for God is reflected in our paying attention to how He taught us to live, loving and honoring  Him by obeying.  As John said it, “We love because he first loved us.” – (1John 4:19)

The same is true of our love for Jesus, Who rescued us from spiritual slavery to live life to the fullest.

The Most Valuable Like

How much is a “like” worth online?  That question would not have made any sense 15 years ago, but now you know what it means!  Google it: You’ll see various estimates, ranging from 21 cents per “like” to $214!  But the most valuable “like” is the one in the middle of this quote from Jesus:

“Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is LIKE it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Jesus had been asked for the greatest commandment in Scripture.  He responded with two (See: Keep it Simple).  He said the two commands were LIKE each other.  But He didn’t mean simply that they were similar.  He meant they corresponded to one another, that they were connected at the hip.  You can’t obey one without following the other and vice versa.  The two commands were really one, connected with the word, like.

Here’s how they work together: Jesus said that when we offer a simple kindness to someone in need – even a glass of water –  “… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40b)   Your love for your neighbor is connected to and is an expression of your love for God, for Jesus.  That is how He receives it.  The first command is LIKE the second.

This connection flows in reverse as well.  Jesus taught us to pray,

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

And then He made the connection clear between our treatment of those who need forgiveness and God’s treatment of us:

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Our love for The Father is connected to our love for our neighbor.  The two loves correspond to one another, they are like each other.  And, because our love for God is a dynamic relationship; it flows both ways, as we give and receive.  Because we love God, we give love to our neighbor and are able to receive love from God.  This interactive “dance” with God, lived out in relationship with the people in our lives, is how we keep this combined commandment.  It begins with an attitude of deep love and respect, not grudging obedience.

As we fully understand this word, LIKE, and grasp how it connects the two commands into one, it becomes the most powerful and valuable “like.”

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Keep it Simple

What’s the most important rule in the Constitution?  What is the most important amendment?  What’s the most important law in the I.R.S. code?  How about the laws in your state: what one is the most important?  Or your city?  Those questions are almost impossibly tough to answer because there are so many laws and the issue of which is most important may seem like it depends upon who is asking and answering.  Supreme Court justices would probably have a hard time answering quickly or definitively.

And yet, when someone asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the whole Old Testament, He was ready with a specific answer, an answer that is profound in its simplicity.  It’s an answer that still “works.”

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Jesus pulled out two separate laws, one from Leviticus and one from Deuteronomy.  The first one is pretty prominent and was commonly memorized.  But the other one, about loving your neighbor, is included in a list of miscellaneous commands.  But by singling out these two commands, Jesus captured the essence of what God wants for us – a deep love for God, a genuine love for the other guy.  One law focuses our attention in a vertical direction.  The other is applied horizontally.  Like the shape of the cross…

Maybe you have been puzzled by all the “thou shalts” and “begats” of the Bible.  Maybe you have wondered if this ancient book can possibly apply in this age of smartphones, 3D printers and drones.  Maybe you have tried to live by the 10 commandments or the Sermon on the Mount and have given up in discouragement.  If that’s you, then try this: live by just those 2 commands, applying them to your life, your thoughts and attitudes, according to your own level of understanding.

You will be surprised. Pleasantly.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Acid Test

Hurricane Sandy left chaos, confusion, darkness and despair in her wake.  In the midst of those dark circumstances, Salem Church, (http://salemchurchnyc.org) on Staten Island,  shined in bright contrast.  Relief, rescue and reconstruction efforts poured out into the community (and continue to do so today) as they put hands, backs and feet to their informal church slogan: “We’re going to love on people until they ask us why.”  They pass the acid test.  They get it.  Get what?  Get this:

God loves us so He can love others through us.   That’s His purpose.  Jesus lived that and taught that:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  (John 15:9 a)

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

When we receive God’s love, He changes us and then loves others through us.  As we extend His love to others, the purpose of God’s love to us is accomplished.  In the words of John, God’s love is made complete.

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.  (1 John 2:5a)

When you send a text, your purpose in sending it is not made complete until the text is received and read.  God’s love to us is not made complete until we “obey His Word” by extending His love to others.  Jesus gave us many commands.  He summarized them in one command: “Love one another.”  He said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 )

Jesus said that our love for one another would be the acid test for the genuineness of our belief in Him.  He said, all men would know.  John says, we can know, too:

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5-6 )

It’s the acid test.