I was thinking this evening, can I continue to write on love for another thirty-eight days (33 for the days of Lent and then remaining five Sundays), without people getting a little tired of reading on this one subject? Love is one of those topics that can wear thin after a while, since it is a common sermon subject. That will be the challenge, both for you the reader, and for me the writer, to keep both of us interested.
One thing about love, however, is that it is intricately bound up in the fabric of what it means to be a believer, a child of God. When Moses was giving the Law to the people at the foot of Sinai, he made an all encompassing statement that is found in Deuteronomy 4:4-6, what would become the Shema, the first prayer a Jewish child is taught, and the fundamental prayer prayed for the rest of their life.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. Deuteronomy 4:4-6 [Emphasis added]
When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, in an attempt to trap him, which of the commandments of the Law was the greatest, he answered.
And he said to him, “You shall love [agape] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love [agape] your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 [Emphasis added]
The root of all of the Law and all of the Prophets is active agape: first to God, then to our neighbor.
Later Paul would add to this premise with his statement in Romans.
Owe no one anything, except to love [agape] each other, for the one who loves [agape] another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love [agape] your neighbor as yourself.” Love [agape] does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love [agape] is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10 [Emphasis added]
When Jesus wanted to give his disciples a clear statement about what it would take for the world to believe that they were his disciples, he did not argue like a lawyer or scholar for feats of exegetical brilliance. Instead he said:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love [agape] for one another. John 13:35 [Emphasis added]
When Jesus wanted to differentiate between those who accepted or rejected him, as many in the Jewish leadership began seeking to kill him, he made this observation:
But I know that you do not have the love [agape] of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:42-44 [Emphasis added]
So, in receiving Christ, we receive the love [agape] of God within us. It defines us to the world as disciples of Christ and it is the fundamental commandment that is the basis of fulfilling all of the Law.
I will close for today with a question, something we will deal with as the days progress. What do people actually see in us that fulfills Jesus’ statement? How will they would know we are his disciples by our agape? What stands out, what is the identifying action/state of being/attitude/whatever that identifies us as loving?
May the grace and peace of our Father bear us along the path he has given us to walk for our Lenten discipline. May we end this journey different than when we started, to glory of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, by the effective work of the Holy Spirit.