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That God kind of love

Posted by on May 31, 2012 in love | 9 comments

That God kind of love

If faith (trust) is one of the most pervasive terms in Scripture (as I said in my previous post “Show me your faith apart from your works“), another term which is often found alongside it is love. In fact, the ideas of faith and love are often intertwined and interrelated by the authors of Scripture. (Just browse through 1 John to see this connection.)

In Scripture, love is the primary response of God towards people, and love is supposed to be the primary response of people toward God and toward other people. If this is not clear in the majority of Scripture, Jesus certainly spells it out for his listeners in this passage in the Gospel of Matthew:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him [Jesus] a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love 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 your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40 re-mix)

Jesus’ audience immediately understood the implication of his instructions to love your neighbor as yourself. So, in response, someone asked him to clarify what he meant by “neighbor.” Luke tells us that it was at this point that Jesus told the parable that we call “the Good Samaritan.” While the Samaritan’s love is impressive, we often lose sight of the extent and scope of that love because of cultural and historical differences.

Jews and Samaritans hated one another. When traveling, they would each go out of their way to avoid running into each other. While there were many historical and cultural reasons for this animosity, religious differences lie at the root of the bitter feelings that the Jews and Samaritans had for one another. The hatred was ingrained; it was taught and learned from birth. Thus, the Samaritan’s love is even more shocking given this background. Furthermore, the Samaritan’s love was not simply an emotional response, but instead it resulted in action that benefited the other individual. Jesus is saying that this is the kind of love that we should have for anyone that we meet: a love that goes beyond differences and cultural standards and generously gives and serves for the benefit of the other, that is, for the one who should be hated.

Previously in Matthew, Jesus had said,

For if you love those who love you, what reward to you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet [accept] only your brothers [and sisters], what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46-47 ESV)

As Jesus points out, even those who are not part of God’s kingdom “love” people who are lovable and who love them back. This is normal love… natural love… worldly love. It is the kind of love that asks the question, “What can I get out of this?” It is the kind of love that is extended because of who the other person is or what the other person does.

This is not God’s kind of love. It is not the kind of love that he demonstrated toward us, and it is not the kind of love that we are supposed to demonstrate towards others. But, this God-kind of love is extremely important for those of us who follow Jesus Christ. Notice that in this passage Jesus said that the teachings of the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) depends upon this two-fold kind of love: love of God and love of neighbor. Just love of God or just love of other people is not enough. It is the combination of the love of God and love of others that demonstrates God’s kind of love.

But, Jesus said this God-kind of love demonstrates more than the teachings of the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament). Jesus also said that those who love in this way show the world that they are truly his disciples.


9 Comments

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  1. 5-31-2012

    Alan great post, as you said here people only love back as much as they are loved.
    You pointed this out. So then people will only love as much as they belief they are loved! So in retrospect if I do not belief that God loves me complete then how will I love? I will love as much as I belief I am loved.
    Thus accordingly as I believe I will do. So If I belief that I am forgiven, to the point of not having to ask for any further forgiveness Then and only then will I have forgiven, and then and only then will I love completely to all, because I am forgiven and am loved complete in Christ. In him it is all done, now go and love as you are led by the Holy Ghost, for it is not something you must do. This is a response to God’s love for you. So ask yourself how much God loves you and you will know by your response.
    Howard

  2. 5-31-2012

    Would this be like me, as a Red Sox fan, helping out a Yankees fan?

  3. 5-31-2012

    Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor” comes from Lev. 19:18, yet there the “neighbor” is defined as “the sons of your own people.” So this verse, on its own, would not necessarily apply to loving Samaritans or Gentiles. It is Jesus who defines the neighbor as even one’s enemy.

    When Jesus says in Mt. 5:43 the people have heard (from rabbis in the synagogues) “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” the last part (about hating enemies) can also be found in passages like Lev. 26:7 (you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword). But because Jesus’ new kingdom is an international kingdom of disciples, the new king says to “love your enemies” (Mt. 5:44). Ethnic and national differences and disputes must give way to gentleness (meekness) for disciples who will simply inherit the (new) earth from their (heavenly) Father in the end (Mt. 5:5); only disciples who are peacemakers will be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9).

    So true faith is indeed a faith “working through love,” the kind of love that is the fruit of the Spirit (and includes peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) (Gal. 5:6,22-23). This God kind of love includes going to ethnic “enemies,” which in white American culture would include going to black neighborhoods and “doing good to all people, especially those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Or it could include going to the Middle East and loving our (national) enemies, instead of killing them.

  4. 5-31-2012

    Lucas, wow, yes and yes again. The differance put even further between Jesus and the law, is the new covenant vrs the old one. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and the law was from the tribe of the Levites. New law new covenant, and then since a new law, there has to be a new priesthood
    Howard

  5. 6-1-2012

    Howard,

    You said, “So ask yourself how much God loves you and you will know by your response.” Yes. Exactly.

    Dan,

    Thanks for the laugh! Even God has limits, apparently. ;)

    Lucas,

    The OT includes several exhortation about caring for and loving those who were “foreigners.” In Jesus’ time, as today, we would prefer to define who our “neighbor” is, instead of allowing God to define that by the people he brings into our lives.

    -Alan

  6. 6-1-2012

    Howard,
    Yes, Jesus’ new covenant includes a new law (the law of Christ) that can contrast with the old law/covenant. As for Jesus being from the tribe of Judah, while the law (about priests) was for the tribe of Levi, you are probably referring to Heb. 7:4-19, where the priesthood (of the law of Moses) belongs to the tribe of Levi; so when Christ (from the tribe of Judah) becomes the new (high) priest, there is a change in the law (the law that made nothing perfect).

    Alan,
    The law of Moses does include a few commands about loving foreigners (like Lev. 19:33-34, about a stranger who sojourns in “your land,” who is to be loved). But there are many more commands about fighting and destroying their enemies, the Gentile ethnic groups that threatened to distract or destroy Israel. So when Jesus says don’t hate (any) enemies, but love them, this all-inclusive command is a strong contrast with the law of Moses. You are right that people (most Christians?) still like to limit who their neighbor is, which frees them to hate or kill (in situations like “self-defense” or “just war”).

  7. 6-1-2012

    Lucas, yes the new law the law of love, which are not in the law of Moses. Jesus was asked what is the greatest of the law, before the new covenant took place. Jesus’s reply to love the Lord your God with all your soul, your mind, and strength. The second is much like the first your neighbor as self. Later your neighbor as much as he (Jesus) loves you.
    The law never stated love in it. no where in the law were these two commands, and Jesus said these were the greatest of the law. When you do these two laws of liberty you have filled the law. The religous leaders left even madder trying to trap jesus in a fault.
    So under the new covenant today, we are under the law of love, yet it is not us that do this law it is the Holy ghost in and through the believer in Christ as their redeemer thus being redeemed, saved by the ressurection. Anytime we try to do love in and of ourselves we are in the flesh looking good, but at these times we are reaping corruption under the guise of looking good. The devil loves this deception to us the deceived, not dying daily to their own flesh, being alive in the Spirit

  8. 6-4-2012

    Lucas,

    Yes, I agree. The OT law included many commands for Israel as a nation.

    Howard,

    And anytime we refuse to “do love” we are disobeying God. We cannot create love within us – only God can do that. But, we can refuse to submit to him and love others.

    -Alan

  9. 6-4-2012

    Agreed, and sometimes we have toseperate ourselves from situations that are not flowing.
    Howard