A lesson on love ...1
A few years ago a meme was making its way around the internet. The punchline was "Jesus doesn't care how many Bible verses you have memorized. He cares about how you treat people." I cringed each time I saw it shared on social media.
Surely, this message was for the Pharisees; the legalistic, holier-than-thou types who condemn everyone short of perfection without so much as a nod toward grace. But, what if there is something a little more subtle? Subtlety is one of Satan's specialties. In Genesis 3, all it takes is a little seed of doubt to cause Eve to stray from what God's words clearly tell us.
Jesus' words are simple.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
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.' Matthew 22: 36-39
We are commanded to love God and love others.
Tackling the second part first - How do I love others ("treat people")?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" Matthew 5:43-47
Loving others with Christian love should look different from the world's perspective. We are ambassadors of Christ. We are called to love those who are unlovely, hateful, different, frightening, cold-hearted, uncomfortable. This kind of love is a gift from God, shining through us. This is what should be setting Christians apart from the world. There are a million plus one ways to show love - here are ten:
1. Pray for the person in your life who most causes your blood pressure to skyrocket.
2. Buy a homeless person a meal and a cold sweet tea.
3. Give someone your jacket on a cold day.
4. Smile. All the time. At anyone and everyone. People will think you're crazy, but that's okay. You will stand out.
5. Hold the door for the sketchy dude behind you.
6. Help someone with kids push their groceries to the car.
7. When something you planned to purchase anyway is 50% off, buy two and donate one.
8. Make and deliver cookies to a neighbor you've never met.
9. Invite someone over for a meal, even if it's Little Caesar's pizza and Crazy Bread. Hospitality is a dying art.
10. Take your kids to a nursing home and hang out. Let some elderly folks delight in your rambunctious children.
Back to the first part of the greatest commandment, the "Love God" part. That one can be a little harder to wrap our finite brains around. I can say, "I love God!" all day long, but that doesn't make it true. So, what does? How do I love God? How can I know how to love God?
Ahhhh, see, that's where those Bible verses come into play.
What does God want from us? He desires our love. He wants a relationship with us.
I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Proverbs 8:17
How do I seek God diligently? This psalmist had a pretty good idea.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Hidden your word in my heart. How do we do that? We read it. We commit to learning it. Dare I say memorize it? We spend time in the word. We need to know what it says!
We are engaged in spiritual warfare, every single day. As mere humans, we have no idea what is going on in the heavenlies right over top of our heads between the angels and princes of darkness, and yet we do catch glimpses of what it is like to combat those who would persecute Christ and his followers. When we are questioned about our faith, do we know what to say? What we believe? Why we believe? What sets us apart? We're supposed to!
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16
God's Word is our weapon. It is our sword in the battle against principalities. It is part of the full armor of God. We cannot be equipped with God's Word if we do not know it.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17
Christians, I implore you. Spend time in God's word. Know what it says so that you can be prepared, always, to give an answer. Hide these words in your heart. Memorize them. Jesus cares about how you treat people, but he also cares about how you treat Him. He wants you to know Him and in seeking Him, you won't be able to help but love Him.
Let God's word show us how to love Him and love others. It's all in there. You should definitely check it out.