I’ve been blogging this month about Christian priorities. I could probably spend the rest of the year on that subject, but I won’t.
I wanted to close this month with one final perspective. That perspective comes from an often undermentioned portion of a well-known passage. I’ve quoted this passage many times, but I don’t think I will ever speak of it again without placing the emphasis on Jesus’ last few words.
Those important words say it all. We will miss the point if we miss that verse.
You have heard the Golden Rule many times. Jesus was being harassed by people who wanted to be right more than they wanted to do what was right.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t even like each other. But, they were united in their dislike of this man, Jesus, who was causing people to question their teaching.
Jesus had already silenced the Sadducees who asked him an inane question about which brother a woman would be married to in heaven. After that, the Pharisees met with the Sadducees to come up with a new way to set up this man they believed was an imposter. They approached Jesus and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36).
Matthew 22:37–39 is the answer Jesus gave and has been called the “Golden Rule.” Jesus said, “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.”
But, the next verse, verse 40 is the reasoning behind Jesus’ words. It isn’t usually quoted, however, when we recite the “Golden Rule.”
Why is loving God and others the most important commandment?
Jesus said, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
A FIRST-CENTURY INTERPRETATION FOR 2021
The Law and the Prophets were the only first-century Scripture. Jesus said that all of Scripture depended on loving God and others. To translate that verse for 2021, we might say, “We can’t be obedient to our Bibles unless we love God and love others.”
All of Scripture depends on the Golden Rule.
Later, Jesus was with his disciples in the Upper Room when he clarified this point even further. He told his followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). Notice Jesus said the same thing but in three different ways. That was a rabbi’s way of saying this was the highest truth.
Jesus taught them that all of Scripture depended on their love for God and their neighbor. Later, he said if they wanted people to know they were his disciples, they needed to love each other like Jesus loved them.
Jesus didn’t encourage us to love like him.
Jesus didn’t suggest we try to love others.
Jesus said he was giving them a new commandment.
I’m in some trouble here.
WHY DO WE THINK SOMEONE IS A DISCIPLE?
- Is it because they vote a certain way?
- Is it because they give God their time and money?
- Is it because they do or don’t do certain things?
- Is it because they are faithful church attenders?
Those are a lot of the reasons Christians measure a disciple, and they are all decent priorities. They just aren’t the most important priority.
If you are like me, it is a humbling thought. It is a LOT easier to do the types of things in the list above than it is to obey the most important commandment.
And Jesus said everything else depends on us loving God and loving one another—like he loves.
HOW WOULD THE WORLD CHANGE IF WE LOVED LIKE JESUS?
Most of the surveys and polls that are being taken right now don’t indicate that people see Christian disciples as people who love them. It is hard to love like Jesus. Yet, it is also his commandment.
How did Jesus love?
He sat with the woman at the well and talked to her. He told her how she could have “living water.” She must have known Jesus cared about her because she went back and told others about him. But, Jesus told her to “go and sin no more.” If we love like Jesus, we won’t want people to believe their sins are acceptable. We will want them to know all of their sin is forgivable. We will want them to stop doing the things that separate them from God and his blessings.
Jesus ate with Zacchaeus, a tax collector. Tax collectors were considered the lowest of the low, and Jesus went to his home for dinner! Jesus cared about him and wanted him to know how to be right with God. As a result, Zacchaeus gave back what he had taken and then some. If we love like Jesus, we will see people’s lives changed as a result. Then they will want to make choices that please God.
Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus. I’ve often described the Apostle Paul as the most notorious terrorist in the New Testament. But, Jesus loved him, forgave him, and called him to serve. And Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament.
If we love like Jesus, the gospel message will prosper in the world because of the power of Christ’s love.
THE GOSPEL WILL PROSPER IF WE LOVE LIKE JESUS
The only time I ever love another person like Jesus is when his Holy Spirit loves them through me. I can’t love like Jesus any other way. Our world needs the love of Christ, through his disciples. Jesus needs us to obey his commandment.
I want to close by offering you an old favorite, “Oh, I Want To Know You More” by Steve Green. It was popular in the mid-nineties. I still remember the first time I heard this song because the words made me cry. I hope you will listen to it again if you haven’t heard it in a while. I think of this song as a prayer I should “pray without ceasing.”
I hope it will bless you, then others through you today, as you live and pray these words. I hope this song will help you spend time with Jesus right now as you listen and worship the One who loves you. I hope people will know we are his disciples because we have prayed this song to God.
If there is one prayer I would offer for all of us who are the Lord’s disciples, it would be this: The more we know Christ, the more we will love others as Christ loves them.
How much do we yearn to know Jesus in the deepest, most profound way?