For the past three months, I've been reading about loving others and gospel living. I've come to the conclusion that it all comes down to this:
Jesus himself tells us the same in Matthew 22:36-40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
Too simplistic? Not really. While the thought is simple, the practice is anything but easy. Over and over again these past months, I've seen that loving others well requires that we first love God. But, to summarize D.A. Carson, the hardest place to love God is in our hearts. He writes,
Here is our first duty, our fundamental privilege, our basic worship: to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. In the midst of suffering, persecution, disability, disappointment, infirmity, tiredness, duty, discipline, work, witness, discernment - in short, in the midst of everything - that love remains our first duty, our fundamental privilege, our basic worship still. When we grown old and calamitously weak, we must love God still; when we look after the chronically ill and think that our horizons are shriveling up, we must love God still; when we are bereaved, we must love God still; when we study and work and build and witness, we must love God still; when we exercise theological discernment, we must love God still.As I've been reading 1 John, I can't help but feeling that it's been an exposition of Matthew 22:26-40. John demonstrates that the strands of loving God and loving others must be carefully woven together in order to create a faith that is evident to the world. He repeatedly calls his audience to examine their love of God - their theology - and their love for others. The two are inextricably linked.
Again from Carson:
So far as the greatest command is concerned, we are not simply to love, to love in the abstract, but to love God. Nor does this mean that we are to love any god or the god of our choosing, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To love this God means, among many other things, that we will be hungry to get to know him better; conversely, in learning his words and ways, his attributes and glory, what he loves and what he hates, we will find that our understanding of what it means to love God, what it means to love enemies, what it means to love brothers and sisters in Christ, will all be progressively modified and enriched...we will be firmly led to think robustly about what he is like, how he views evil, what rights and responsibilities he gives to the state in a fallen world, his role both in making peace and in judgment, and, above all, his commitment to own glory as God. (author's emphasis)We cannot love God unless we rightly know him. John encourages us not only that the Gospel is true, but that we must stick to the true Gospel by abiding in it so that we will be equipped to discern theological error. As Richard Yarbrough states, John "writes to commend a higher road: liberation from the compulsion to believe, behave, and love in ways that fall short of God's glorious and transforming light. he writes to commend a full, satisfying and efficacious knowledge of God." (source)
Part of that transformed behavior is loving others Biblically. More on that next time...