I wish to set before you, beloved child of God, the idea that authentic love, as portrayed in scripture, has as much to do with respecting boundaries as it does meeting needs and caring for people. It seems to me that people today have lost sight of what the scriptures teach concerning how true love expresses itself: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (I John 5:3, NASB). Not what you expected to hear, hunh? Well, people also have a lot of misconceptions about what it really means to “keep His commandments,” and tend to forget that “His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3, NASB).
While life back in old covenant days—with its accompanying law of Moses—might be construed as burdensome, for there were certainly a lot of tedious rules and regulations to follow, Jesus simplified things for us when He 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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40, NASB)
According to Jesus, everything that the Law of Moses and the writings of the ancient prophets were trying to accomplish could be summed up in those two great commands — to love God and to love others. When we take a look at the Ten Commandments, which represented in a few brief words all that the Law of Moses was designed to accomplish, we can easily see how each command is predicated on love. For example, the first four commandments — “You shall have no other gods before Me,” “You shall not make for yourself an idol,” “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:3-8, NASB) — all relate to our love for God and our desire to honor Him. The fifth commandment — “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12, NASB) — relates to both our love for God and for our parents; as it speaks to our respect for, and submission to, God’s established boundaries of authority. The remaining five commandments, six through ten — “You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” “You shall not covet… anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:13-17, NASB) — all relate to loving, honoring, and respecting one another. God’s commandments are all about fostering a life and a society that is founded on love.
Today, God’s covenant children are no longer controlled by all the rules and regulations of the Law of Moses; but God’s desired outcome for our lives has not changed. He still wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In fact, Jesus has actually raised the concept of “love” to incredibly new heights, when it comes to how the new covenant children of God are to love one another, when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34, NASB). Loving my neighbor as I love myself, as difficult is that is, is only sufficient for orchestrating my secular, community relationships with people in general. But when it comes to the “ekklesia” — the called out body of Christ — I am commanded to take love to an even higher level; I must, somehow, learn to love my brothers and sisters in Christ the way Jesus loves me.
Jesus even went so far as to set forth “love” as the identifying mark of the children of God when He said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NASB). It’s interesting to me how that various religious groups rally around and identify themselves by all kinds of teachings, doctrines, practices, names, and even prominent religious leaders; while pretty much ignoring the very thing that Jesus said would identify His true disciples — love for one another.
And so, I submit to you, dear covenant child, that there is not a single expectation that God has of us that does not fall under the category of love: love for people in general, love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, love for God. One could almost say that, for the authentic child of God, “love IS our religion”—at least insofar as how God wants us to demonstrate our faith on a practical level in this physical world day-by-day.
“For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14),
~ Philip ~