Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the 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 22:34-39 (emphasis mine)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
If I speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most (those of faith) will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13
Socrates once said, “The only thing I know is that I don’t know anything. And knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all.” As I get older, and am hopefully maturing, I find this to be true. The older I get, the more I realize I don’t know anything. The same is true in my relationship with God. The more I grow in my relationship with God, the more I realize there is so much more to Him than I could ever fathom this side of eternity. Many things I thought I knew as a young believer, I’m not so sure anymore. Some would probably assume I’ve begun to doubt God or struggle in my faith. The opposite is actually true. The more I have let go of what I knew (which I really didn’t to begin with), the more real God has become. It all centers around one thing—the love of God.
I didn’t open my heart to God as a 17-year old because somebody convinced me that God is real. I didn’t come to Him because someone presented me with evidence of the work of God. I came to Him because I experienced His love. It was personal, and it was more than I had ever experienced before. Something in me knew that it was real and that night I dedicated my life to being in relationship with Him. It was all because of His love. I remember feeling so amazing that the God who created me and all things could desire me and want a relationship with me. I was on cloud nine! Well, for a few weeks anyway—until I slipped back into my old ways of thinking and started to think that I had to earn God’s approval, just like I had to earn good grades, and earn my paycheck, and earn my way on to the baseball team. I let my “knowledge” prevent me from walking in God’s eternal love. To be honest, I still let that happen more than I’d care to admit.
With the advent of social media, I’ve learned that everyone knows they are right and those who disagree with them are wrong. Not really, but it certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? So many hide behind their Facebook accounts, twitter handles, and their blogs to “prove” to everyone how much they know, and in turn, how little everyone else knows. Now that we are in a presidential election year, all the “experts” have come out swinging! First it starts with all those clamoring for my vote. They want to convince me how their knowledge and experience makes them the best person for the position in which they are running. Then their followers want to convince me of how qualified “their” candidate it and how unqualified the other candidate is. Like many others none of these things tend to convince me one way or another. Everyone will highlight their best qualities, while minimizing or hiding their weaknesses. What’s even worse to me are the followers of Jesus who feel it is their mission to tie their candidate to God’s word. Christians identify with every party, and many of them are convinced that God has ordained their candidate. It can’t be both/and. I’m wondering more and more if God’s true response would be neither/nor. Every candidate that tries to bolster themselves by cutting down others does not resonate with me. The scriptures noted above are the reason why. The answer to our problems is and always has been the love of God. Without it, tension and conflict arises—every time.
The apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 8:1 that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. This was addressed to people who thought they knew what to do with food that had been sacrificed to idols. They thought they knew God’s opinion on the matter and sought to hold everyone to it. Paul notes that is not the case. There is much more to it. You see, the root of all of our issues—from Genesis 3 to today—can be traced back to one thing. Christians reading this will say sin. While that is technically correct, we can pinpoint something even more specific—the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve had only one “do not” command; to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While yes, it was sin that changed everything, it was specifically the knowledge of good and evil that changed everything. God said, they have become like us, knowing good and evil… The problem is that while mankind now knows good and evil, we have no idea how to properly deal with it. And we’ve tried for thousands and thousands of years. How are we doing?
Jesus, the perfect revelation of God and the exact imprint of the Father (Hebrews 1), took all of Israel’s laws and commands and narrowed them down to one command in three forms—Love God, neighbor, and self (understanding your position as a child of God.) Jesus says that EVERYTHING hangs on this. Paul reiterates this by saying nothing we do matters if we do not do so in love. Jesus speaks in Matthew 7 of those who will argue their holiness (prophesying, driving out demons, etc.) yet are rebuked for the Lord did not know (them). No matter how much power, prophecy, or supernatural giftings the church may operate in, if we have not love, WE. HAVE. NOTHING!
I can’t imagine a single scenario when standing before God that I will give account of how patriotic I was, who I voted for, how much bible knowledge I had, what positions I held, etc. The only question I imagine being presented me is, “How did you love? Did you love the outcast, the poor in spirit, the marginalized, the fatherless, the widow, the helpless, the confused, the hungry, the sick, the naked, etc.” I believe that by loving others, I am truly loving God. And to love my neighbor, I must love myself as God loves me. The truth is, none of us know how to fix what’s wrong. If we did, it would already be fixed. Any person or group of people who say they have the answer, I will never trust—unless they say that answer is the love God as revealed in Christ. The answer is not more laws, protests, or knowledge. The answer is not in our Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. The answer is not in the church, or even the Bible. The answer is in the love of God in Christ. Knowledge puffs up, love builds up. We don’t need to build walls, we need to build relationships. May we be compelled by the love of Christ, and not our fear of losing our rights or protections. Love requires sacrifice; the laying down of one’s life for others. Love is the answer—always has been and always will be. It’s not easy, but it’s God’s way. Remember, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
May the peace and love of Christ rule your heart. You are loved, now go and do likewise.