The Greatest Commandment and Our Response to it
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:9-12 What an amazing story this is on so many levels; that God loved us so much He sent His Son to die for us. I wonder how often any of us slow down enough to just let that sink in. We weren’t deserving, we hadn’t earned His favor; far from it! We were living in open rebellion against God, and yet He loved us that much. That wasn’t the end of the story, not by a long shot. Through his great love for us, He forgave our sins, setting them aside entirely and entered into an intimate relationship with us. The real question here is how we should respond to his love. For those of us who really grasp the significance of what He has done for us, it is only natural that we would develop and deep love for God, yet even that isn’t the end of the story! We “ought to love one another” is John’s conclusion. Still, there is more at work than we might think at first: when we love one another, God is living in us, and in our love for one another, God’s love is made complete. How is this so? It really isn’t very complicate, for God loves us and in response we love Him back. God also loves our brother and sister, and when we do the same for His sake, His love dwells within each of us and throughout the entire Body of believers, completing to cycle of His great love.
We love God because He first loved us Let’s begin our lesson with a little review. .. John states this about as clearly as it can be stated in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” Paul puts it slightly differently: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 That our love for God comes from His love for us would seem to be an established fact in Scripture. Thus, it is the greatest of all the commandments: Love God.
The second greatest commandment The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. 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 22:3730 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 We all know these verses, most of us know them by heart, but why are they so important? The answer to this question really isn’t so difficult if we remember that God first loved all of us and sent His Son to die for all of us and not just for you or me. That God would want us to share His love with our neighbor makes all kinds of sense, just as a parent would want their child to share the parent’s love for his or her siblings. In the New Testament, this love for our neighbor is carried forward as our love for one another within the church in a special way.
God loved us – We love God – God loves others – So do we This is the cycle that makes God’s love complete in us. My brother or sister may not always be lovable, but because God loves them and I love God, I decide to love them too, in spite of their faults, for are their faults really that much greater than my own? John makes this entire cycle clear in an amazing passage, 1 John 4:7-21 and I hope you will read it in class.
Some of the other verses relating to this are listed below:
John 13:34-35; 14:21; 15:17; 17:23
Ephesians 1:15; 4:2 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 4:8
Romans 5:5; 8:28, 35; 12:10; 13:8-10
Colossians 1:4; 2:2; 3:14 1 John 2:10; 3:11, 14; 4:721 1 Corinthians 8:3 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:910 Galatians 5:13-14 2 Thessalonians 1:3
This is a theme that carries throughout the entire New Testament, and it is also the very core of all Christian Theology. If you want to really take a wide view of the subject, it is also the primary purpose of Church and can be summed up in the words of Jesus: “Make disciples.”
Questions for Understanding
1. What is God showing us in this discussion about His nature?
2. Do you suppose that God’s love for us is a mere emotion, or is it something much deeper than that?
3. If God can command us to love one another, is this love a feeling or a choice?
4. Since this is a class about forgiveness, is it likely that we can love others yet refuse to forgive them?