Most of us remember our favorite love stories where the man usually goes to extreme lengths to get the attention of their loved one. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Comedy of Errors, the Merchant of Venice I can go on and on. When someone is in love, it is as if they do not have a head but only follow with their heart. Not all love stories end the way we want them to, but the point is when one is in love they go all out to please their loved ones some even to the point of death.
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s is a similar love story. Christ loved us so much that He came to die for us, and we, in turn, have to decide whether to love Him back with all our hearts, mind, body and soul, just as the characters in the love stories we know. Are you in Love with Jesus?
In the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, a familiar story is told of a scribe who wanted to test Jesus, asked him what the greatest commandment of all was.
Jesus declared, “‘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.”
What I have come to observe in this well-known story is how Jesus answers the questions. Loving God comes first, and loving your neighbor is second. The sequence is significant, and I want to use this post and subsequent ones to discuss its implications.
God is pre-eminent in all things as Colossians 1:18 says: “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent”.
We love Him because he first loved us. We are living now because He created us and breathed in us. We are living now because He came to die for our sins while we were yet sinners, so we do not experience death. Ephesians 2:5 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!
He says when we love Him, we will obey His commandments and that His commandments are not burdensome. When we examine the everlasting Ten commandments written by the finger of God on stone, the first four or the first half of the table are commandments about loving God. Namely, 1) Not having any God besides him, 2) Not making unto ourselves or bowing down to any graven images of anything that is in the heavens above or in the earth beneath or anything under the earth, 3) Not using His Holy name in vain, and 4) Keeping Holy His Seventh-day Sabbath.
These commandments are what Jesus summarised as “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” When we inadvertently break any of these, we have to confess our sins to God, seek forgiveness and repent of them and turn over a new leaf.
Obeying and keeping these commandments are a matter of conscience and faith. God is the ultimate judge of these as it is between an individual and God. It is not the duty of the government to legislate these things (Daniel 6:7-8). A police officer cannot arrest you and send you to court for disobeying any of those four laws. Such as, not worshipping on a particular day; or using the Lord’s name in vain, or worshipping an idol or not keeping the Sabbath of the Lord. Free societies safeguard these as freedom of conscience, and no Judge or Magistrate will hear such an issue. 2 Cor 3:17 lets us know where the spirit of God is, there is Liberty. In the U.S Constitution, there is the First Amendment which protects religion from political influences and vice-versa, and there is also the Bill of Rights, which safeguards individual freedoms. Western countries, including Canada, generally have similar freedoms as we observe lots of migration toward these ‘free’ countries. These freedoms are also enshrined in the UN Fundamental Declaration of Human Rights. Countries that force you to obey a certain religion or deity is not considered to be free.
It is essential we know the priority and reason for our love relationships as time is coming soon when we will have to choose between God and our neighbor under challenging circumstances.
In Matthew 10, Jesus makes several statements to the effect starting from verse 21: And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
In the above passage, Jesus was alluding to the betrayal that will take place at the time of the end, even within our physical family and the spiritual family, the church. This is where God is going to test us of our love for Him. That is why we have to recognize and know which is the greatest commandment.
In the book of Daniel; the lives of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, remind us explicitly of the Commandment to Love God with all our heart, mind, body, and soul. When they were told to bow down to an idol of the King of Babylon, they refused because they knew it was against the 2nd commandment of God that said, “thou shall not make or bow down to any graven image, or worship them…” and they were prepared to go into the burning fiery furnace. Revelation 14:10-12 warns us not to worship (bow down to) the Beast (spiritual Babylon) or his image or receive the mark of His name, and anyone who does that shall receive the unquenchable wrath of God which will be poured out without mixture. Everyone will be doing it except those who truly love God with all their hearts, mind, soul, and strength and prepared to die for it. In the book of Daniel, all the people bowed down except those three. In the end time, we need to know the truth to understand what spiritual Babylon or the Beast is first before we can know His Image. God says Satan deceives the whole world (Rev 12) so he will not make it easy to discern these things unless those who truly desire to know the truth.
Also in Daniel 6:7-8 when Daniel himself refused to obey the King’s command not to pray to any god or human being during thirty days, except the King, Daniel was thrown into Lion’s den. No King or ruler should tell its citizens whom to pray to or worship as God is the one who appoints all Kings on earth and therefore are themselves subject to him also. Daniel knew the first Command was that “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall have no other gods besides me” and did not follow the King’s order not to pray to Him. The King’s command was unlawful, and because Daniel loved God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, he chose to obey God rather than man even at the peril of his life.
These statements may be hard for Christians to swallow but when we observe occurrences in the world now, the time is soon coming when we will have to decide whether to follow the crowd, family, friends, loved ones, the church organization or instead to follow Jesus Christ as He is the only, the truth and the Life.
In the second part of this article, I will talk about loving your neighbor and its implications. Be blessed.