It was the last week of His life, and Jesus was fielding questions from critics in the temple. An angry crowd gathered around Him as one after another lost their arguments. One challenger was left: a lawyer who thought he could stump Jesus with a question for which there was seemingly no one right answer. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)
Jesus instantly quoted Deuteronomy 6:5: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
But He also quoted Leviticus 19:18: “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:39-40).
Jesus was asked one question, and He replied with two answers that perfectly summarized the entire Old Testament law in one word—love.
When we scrutinize the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, we see that they fall into two divisions. The first four have to do with our relationship with God, and the last six have to do with our relationships with others. When we genuinely love God, we’ll automatically keep the first four commandments. When we love others, we’ll show it by observing the last six commandments. Taken together, these two commandments summarize the Ten Commandments, which encapsulate the entire law of God and reflect His holy character.
Must Love Dogs
There has never been a society such as ours that has written so much about love—yet has understood it so little and practiced it so poorly.
Netflix offers numerous movies with the word “love” in the name; yet just a sampling of the titles tells us that Hollywood doesn’t have a clue about biblical love: Love Affair, Down With Love, and Must Love Dogs.
Not many movies deal with praying for your enemy, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, changing diapers in the church nursery, giving precious heirlooms to the stewardship campaign, sorting shoes at the relief center, volunteering as a school tutor, building houses in low-income neighborhoods, digging wells in Sri Lanka, or ladling soup at the homeless shelter. But those are the things that draw us outside the gates of our comfortable sanctuaries and into the streets of this hurting world.
Biblical love—the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated—is the kind of love that esteems others better than ourselves and makes us look out not only for our own interests but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
A couple of weeks after having preached on love and generosity, I received a letter from a grandmother in our congregation.
Dear Pastor, I want to share a story with you concerning my youngest grandson, Nicholas, who is eight years old. His AWANA club adopted a group of poor children in Turkmenistan. Each child in Nicholas’s club was given a jar in which they were to place quarters to save up for other children.
One day, my son Jon saw that his son, Nicholas, had put a five-dollar bill (his entire monthly allowance) in his jar. And when Jon asked him why he did that, Nicholas replied, “I want the children in Turkmenistan to hear about Jesus…. I would just buy another toy with the money.”
This touched my heart so much and continues to make me think about what “toy” I could forego [to help] spread the Gospel.
For lots of people, life is about toys; but it’s not. It is about boys and girls and men and women with needs we can meet. When we love our neighbors as ourselves, we forget about our toys, and venture outside the gates; we survey the situation of those living across the street, nation, and seas. Jesus wants to love others through us, and most people can’t see the heart of God until they see our hands reaching out with a cup of cold water, a few needed dollars, or a warmhearted hug.
The Bible says Jesus “suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come”(Hebrews 13:12-14).
So let’s go forth under the commandment to love others—outside the gate—so that one day we’ll rejoice with them inside the gates of New Jerusalem.