The Greatest of all is Love!

The Greatest of all is Love!

1 John 4 says it twice: God is love.  When asked, “What is the greatest commandment, Jesus made it clear: We must love.  Love God, heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Jesus even taught us to love our enemies and pray for them.  When instructing the church in Christian living and church behaviors the number one instruction is: love.  When speaking of the fruit of the Spirit that we are to bear as Spirit led followers of Christ, the first one is: love.

In fact, when the three major Christian characteristics in the New Testment are lined up together: faith, hope and love, when these are measured by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is clear: the greatest of these is – love.

Biblically speaking, Love is THE greatest thing in the world.  But just what is love?  How is it to be understood and defined so that we can obey the command to do it.

The New Testament language of Greek has more than one word that is translated love.  Each of these words carries its own nuance of meaning.  For some reason the English word “love” has been loaded down with such a wide range of understandings and meaning it has little accuracy.  Instead of a bullet word that puts all its power into a single projectile, the word love is more like a ten gauge shotgun shell filled with number 8 shot.  There’s about 320 little bb’s of shot in there that spread wider and wider the further from the barrel they travel.

Look at these slides with me and ask yourself:

Where do you see love?  And, who or what is being loved in this picture?

  • pigs at the trough
  • boy with ice-cream
  • couple at sunset
  • mother and baby
  • guys laughing

Love has a warm side, does it not?  When we think of love, this perhaps is the first kind of image we imagine.  This is the side of love that promotes immediate joy and a sense of well being.

But love has a very tough side too.  Love’s devotion to it’s object can include pain and even violence.  Love protects and is not disinterested or unattached.  Romans 11:22 says, “Behold the kindness and severity of God…”  Love is not always easy or nice and pleasant.  It isn’t about giving you what you want, but what you need. Love always goes after truth and what is truly the best for the beloved.  Love isn’t self-centered, but beloved centered.  Here’s a few more slides, showing love’s tough side.

Again, look at these slides with me and ask yourself:

Where do you see love?  And, who or what is being loved in this picture?

  • rooster chasing dog
  • dad spanking son
  • mom spanking daughter
  • soldiers fighting
  • Jesus on the cross

Look with me at John’s gospel.  We will look at 13:34-35, and 15:8-17.

These are the last words of Jesus to His disciples before His arrest, trial and crucifixion.  These are the words given to them as part of the passover discourse.  This is Jesus’ final sermon just after the Lord’s supper was instituted.  We follow communion with a sermon too, don’t we?  In chapter 13 Jesus starts by washing their feet, loving them to the end.  There Jesus says similar words to the words in chapter 15.  Look at John 13:34-35.  What does Jesus tell them?

Now go to 15:8-17.

Now, there are a lot of things we could talk about from these two readings, but one thing is clear: Jesus gave His disciples a command.  What was His commandment?  Love each other.  How are they to love each other?  Just as Jesus has loved them.  There is a warm and tough side to Jesus’ love.

I believe that the hardest commandment in the Bible is right here.  I also believe that the commandment that will give us the greatest blessing and produce the greatest good for God’s kingdom is right here.

If we do everything else with cautious precision but fail to obey Jesus command to love one another as He has loved us, what have we accomplished?  But if we keep this commandment, and make it the very center of our Christian walk, all the rest will follow and God’s richest blessings will flow.

We must never attempt to run on faith and hope without practicing love.  Not just any love, but love as Jesus loved!

Love serves.  But it serves God’s way, not the way of the server, or the way of the beloved.  God is love.  It is His love and His likeness that we must pursue.