Jesus’ and the Apostle Paul’s New Testament teaching on the priority and importance of love is crystal clear. Because we know that Jesus spoke only what He heard God the Father speak (John 12:49), we know that His teaching on this priority comes directly from God the Father Himself. Similarly with Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit that searches the mind of God, we know that his teaching comes from the Father as well. As a Christian, God says love is to be our priority. You might say, of course it is, I know this, we all know this. If so, then why the passivity, distraction and ineffectiveness? Do we not know that God’s love always has an outflow and a product? What is the product or fruit of our love? Is it what it could be?
In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. His response is simple, “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.” Pretty straightforward. And he pushes in a little further, noting that, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In other words, if you do these two, all other commandments and laws will be carried out. Do we prioritize well?
Paul gets the principle well. In a mature state, after being called by the Lord directly on the Damascus Road and instructed by the Holy Spirit for an extended and intense time, he puts the love priority in the most eloquent, clear and deep wording of the Bible in what is well-known as the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. To fully get the emphasis, we must put ourselves in his shoes and look at it from his perspective. Doing so as a younger man or younger Christian, with an open mind and heart, can help avoid many wasted and ineffective years. Paul said, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge…have all faith so as to move mountains…bestow all my goods to feed the poor and give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing (and I am nothing).” That statement and the depth of the sacrifice that we read that could be made without love, should give us great pause. It basically says that what we consider our most sacrificial deeds and what we deem our greatest spiritual gifts does not imply that we truly love God or one another. It says knowledge of the deepest mysteries of God is worth little without love before it. It says great belief in God’s being and power without love has no profit. It says love of God comes first. And it makes sense, right? For that which we love, we will do anything required; we will make the ultimate sacrifice; and we will serve.
Jesus modeled love for us. In John 13:1 is says that Jesus, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” In John 15:13 Jesus says, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” In John 13:34 Jesus is direct to His collective disciples saying, “Love one another as I have loved you…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In John 21:17, Jesus is direct to one of His mightiest men, Simon Peter, “…Jesus asked him for the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’….‘Feed My sheep’”. Jesus loved the Father. He was all in, ‘til the end.
The priority is clear. We are to love. The product of that love is clear, i.e. if we love we will act (believe, hope, serve others, give generously, give all, etc). The questions remains individually, “Do we really love God and others? Or do we really just love ourselves?”