Loving People

 The apostle Paul said, “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good,’ (Romans 12:21, HCSB).  When he opened up the thirteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians he claimed that “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” (1 Corinthians 13:1, NIV).   Jan Pasterkamp said, “The greatest weapon we have against the devil is love.  When God wanted to redeem the world that had come into the hands of Satan, He did not use spiritual warfare, He used love.  It is the only weapon that the devil cannot stand, the weapon of just pure love.”[1]  There is a reason why Christ held the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39) in such a high standard, because the love that emanates from us through Christ overcomes evil.

The Gospels are saturated with the message of love.  Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44, NIV).  Even so, when Jesus was approached by the lawyer, He responded by saying that love for God and neighbor rests the entire law and prophets (Matthew 22:36-40).  Jesus compared love between the righteous and unrighteous by saying, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them…. love your enemies, and lend to them, without expecting anything back,” (Luke 6:32-35, NIV), a radical change as to where love is to be directed.  In contrast to love through Christ, Jesus addressed this issue with the leaders of His time.  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplace,” (Luke 11:43, NIV).  The Pharisees were neglecting “justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:43, NIV), thereby holding them personally responsible for the deaths of all the prophets (Luke 11:50).  Just as Jesus loves us, we are to reciprocate that love outwardly towards all people (John 13:34).  It is only in our love for Christ, can we keep all His commands (John 14:15, 24), and our obedience rests on our love for Him.  “Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13, ESV).  After Jesus resurrected from the dead, He repeatedly asked Peter whether he loved Him (John 21:15-17), which is predicated in being able to guard over Jesus’ flock of believers.

Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, commenting on the two greatest commandments said, “It sits above the many detailed requirements of the Old Testament Law, because it recognizes that all forms of obedience to God must first and foremost flow out of our love for Him.  Christ’s castigation of the Pharisees condemned their legalism devoid of any love, mercy, or justice.”[2]  He continues from this by drawing on the second greatest commandment, “So then, Jesus is equating loving our neighbors with loving God.  If we truly love God, He was saying, we will express it by loving our neighbors, and when we truly love our neighbors, it expresses our love for God.”[3]  Rabbi Hillel, a prominent Pharisee and scholar prior to Christ’s advent, responding to a Gentile who wanted to learn the Torah, said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”[4]  Because this concept is evident prior to Christ’s advent, we see this clear teaching which Jesus (who is the architect of it) affirmed as fundamental to the entire law and prophets, exhaustively clearing up any presumptions in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  “Such love crosses the traditional boarders of love.”[5]  The “Spirit” within the law umbrellas everything in it.  In Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, love is the third level in which all human beings require for their overall well being.[6]  “The desire to love and be loved and the desire to know and love God, who is the author of such all-encompassing love,”[7] is what people intrinsically yearn for, often times replacing it with an objective love that can be detrimental to their character traits.  “The obligation to show love towards one’s neighbours is motivated by the love one receives from God.”[8]

In order for Christians to exemplify the love of God has towards them, it is pertinent that believers in turn produce the same kind of love towards their neighbors, regardless of who they are.  Like the apostle Paul urged his audience, without love, the Gospel message will be received as noise, unable to discern or understand it as a spiritual need in which all people seek and desire.  The Great Commission rests on love, and without it, what purpose is it for another to consider it as something they need as well?  If the actions of a Christian are Constantinian in nature, a war-conquering advocate of sorts, what difference is it apart from any other ideology that seeks military usurpation?  Pastor Sjoerd concludes that in essence, all teaching and doctrine rests on the person Jesus Christ, and if we put anything above Him, we are creating false idols.  “Truth is not a teaching.  Truth is a person.”[9]  Jesus Christ is love.

[1]Jan Sjoerd Pasterkamp. “Furious Love” (Documentary, 41:58).  Directed by Darren Wilson.  Greenville, SC.  Wanderlust Productions. Released February 14, 2010.  Accessed December 7, 2016.

[2] Richard Stearns, The Hole In Our Gospel, (Nashville, World Vision, 2010), 66.

[3] Ibid., 66.

[4] Hillel, Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

[5]Francois P. Viljoen. “The Double Love Commandment/Die Dubbele Liefdesgebod.” In Die Skriflig 49, no. 1 (2015): 8, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1757282207?accountid=12085

[6]Ted Rivera, Reforming Mercy Ministries, (Downers Grove, IVP, 2014), 83.

[7]Gary Smith, Radical Compassion: Finding Christ In The Heart Of The Poor, (Chicago, Loyola Press, 2002), 89.

[8]Francois P. Viljoen. “The Double Love Commandment/Die Dubbele Liefdesgebod.” In Die Skriflig 49, no. 1 (2015): 7, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1757282207?accountid=12085

[9]Jan Sjoerd Pasterkamp. “Furious Love” (Documentary, 58:32).  Directed by Darren Wilson.  Greenville, SC.  Wanderlust Productions. Released February 14, 2010.  Accessed December 7, 2016.