Love is a mystery. Is it an emotion? Is it action? Is it an amalgamation of both? People with a scientific mind sometimes explain all the feelings involved by proclaiming that love is simply a chemical reaction in our brains and is therefore nothing truly real—just a random byproduct of human brain chemistry developed through millions of years of human evolution. When we look at Scripture, however, we see that love is not solely an emotion and not solely an action, but that it is the Christian lifestyle. I’d say the most notable verse is Jesus’ command to Christians to love in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
If you’ve read my previous articles you probably know by now that I love diving into Greek and Hebrew as part of my studies. So, I opened up my Greek New Testament Bible. Three times, Jesus says something along the lines of, “that you love one another.” When redundancy occurs in the Greek, it is done so for emphasis. I would estimate that 99% of the time, when this redundancy occurs, it is hidden in the original Greek language, so English readers don’t know when something is said with heavy emphasis. In this verse, however, it is carried over clearly into the English language. Obviously Jesus was stressing something of high importance. When we think of the word “love,” even in the Christian sense, we think of it as being accompanied by that “warm, fuzzy” feeling. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that warm, fuzzy feeling with every single person I meet, whether they’re Christian or not. So does that mean love is absent? Absolutely not. This is because Christian love is not a feeling; although strong feelings can be involved, but rather a way of life. One of the main focuses of Jesus ministry was to teach about love and what it truly is according to God. Jesus was constantly getting attacked by the religious leaders of the day. However, some were curious about His teachings. A Pharisee once asked Jesus what the greatest command was, to which He replied, “‘You must love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-39). Anytime a speaker in the New Testament says, “the Law and the Prophets,” he is referring to the entire Old Testament, which are the Scriptures that the Jews adhere to. According to Jesus, the entire Law, or Old Testament (also old covenant), is dependent upon this love. Similar to this, Jesus said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This is where we get the cliché, “Treat others how you want to be treated,” more-so from Luke 6:31.
Paul says regarding love, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
Some people have taken this to mean that if we are perfect in love, then we fulfill the Law and are thereby saved; however, this thinking is wrong. As Christians, we are only able to love and therefore fulfill the Law because we have been declared righteous “by the mercies of God” (Romans 12:1). In other words, because Jesus fulfilled the Law for us (Matthew 5:17), we are able to fulfill the Law in Christian love (the love of Christ) since His righteousness is imputed to us (Romans 1:17; 3:21). Ergo, it is by the righteousness of Christ He has given to us that we are able to fulfill the Law by loving others as He would.
Love is such a powerful force because it is directly opposed to hate. As believers love is our strongest weapon to impact the world we live in. By loving one another the world sees that we are the people of God. Love isn’t always easy, but it is what the world needs now. I want to encourage you to do share love with someone today. We don’t have to wait for special holidays like Valentine’s Day to focus on love. Love must be our focus on a daily basis. So here’s the question, “Got love?” This Sunday at South Side we will unpack the teachings of Jesus with the topic of “trust and treasure.” Worship begins at 10:45, and we would love to have you come worship with us!
Barry Pettit is lead minister at South Side Church of Christ in Washington Court House.