At a men’s retreat some years ago two of my brothers spent most of the weekend, Bibles in hand, arguing law vs. grace, salvation vs. condemnation, what Revelation really meant and on and on and on.
I think their unspoken goal was to see who knew more about the Bible and theology. They volleyed back and forth agreeing and disagreeing with each other for uninterrupted hours. Defending their beliefs. Quoting scriptures. Persuading. Defining. Describing.
By Sunday afternoon both brothers decided they hadn’t accomplished one thing to get closer to the Kingdom of God during their marathon theological contest.
What a waste!
If we’d start doing what Jesus said, rather than arguing about what He said, the whole world would change.¹
In Matthew an expert in the law, trying to trick Jesus, asked him what was the greatest commandments. 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.
Do we fully comprehend the scope of what Jesus teaches us here? All the law, and all the prophets’ and all they prophesied, every principle and lesson and concept in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Every command. Every take-away. Every scripture verse. Every decision we make–everything–“hangs” on how we treat each other.
Jesus teaches the same thing in John 13:34-35,
“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.”
In two verses Jesus instructs his disciples to love one another three times. It sounds like Jesus believes it’s important for those who want to be His disciples to love one another?
So, any time we pick up the Bible to find a scripture or a command to apply to our lives or share with someone else, Jesus is telling us to filter it through the command that all the other commands and scripture and principle and Bible teaching hangs on. Namely, love one another.
According to Andy Stanley we need to filter all our decisions and our choices through one question: What does love require of me? With every “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” we need to ask ourselves, “What does love require of me?”
Before we read scripture to discover what God wants us to do or what not to do, we need to filter our questions and our doubts and our concerns through the question: “What does love require of me?”
If we call ourselves disciples and want to be like disciples and act like disciples, when we come to any decision or major choice in our lives, we need to filter them all through the question: “What does love require of me?”
Jesus’ command does not require us to know a boatload of scriptures, (although reading God’s word can certainly teach us how Jesus loves us). It doesn’t require that we pray seven times a week or tithe or serve on 17 church committees. His command, “Love one another” requires that we filter our lives through this one question: “What does love require of me?”
And not just with your spouse and children and loved ones. Not just with your church family and our Bible study classes. If we’re going to behave the way Jesus commanded us to behave we have to ask, “What does love require of me?” when we meet a crotchety, nagging, elderly lady in the grocery store. When someone insults us. When someone steals from us. When we see a homeless family begging for food on the side of the road. When we see a bedraggled stranger battered and bruised and bloodied in the alley. When someone we love betrays us. When we see brokenness and heartache in the people around us. When we meet someone abandoned and ostracized by his family. When we see someone whose heart is broken. When we meet sinners, prisoners, those we hate and those who hate us. When we want to blame someone for our misery. When someone accuses us of lying. When_________________ (you fill in the blank).
Jesus commands us to love one another.
Does he command us to let people trample us? No. But if it happens, we need to ask, “What does love require of me?” Loving one another requires that we know Jesus personally and learn how He loves us. As we get to know Him and learn what He taught, we embrace His love and His teachings and share His love with others. That has everything to do with behavior and nothing to do with believing.
What we believe really doesn’t matter. What we believe will not help us decide what love requires from us in any given situation. People can’t see what we believe. But they can see how we behave towards other people.
How we love one another.
¹A message in the audio series "Christian" by Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia was the inspiration for this post.