Wednesday, April 15, 2009


“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

This passage is commonly called The Great Commandment. Love God with all your being and love your neighbor. Because of the way Americans look at love, this commandment raises a bit of a difficulty. These are actual statements I have heard from people over the course of my ministry: “I don’t know if I love God. Sometimes I feel a lot of gratitude for what he’s done for me but other times I don’t feel anything.” “I find it hard to love God because I see God as a male and it’s just too hard for me to be in love with a male” (obviously from a man!). Then there is the Mary Magdalene syndrome from Jesus Christ Superstar (“I don’t know how to love him”). I’ve met women who seem to be completely, romantically in love with Jesus, “I just love him so much! He meets all my needs! I get a warm feeling all over when I think about him.”

Then what about the second part of the commandment? The part about loving one’s neighbor? “I don’t even know my neighbor, how am I supposed to love him?” “I show my love for my neighbor by not calling the cops every night about his music being so loud!” “I tolerate him. That’s how I love my neighbor!” “I live out in the country. I don’t have any neighbors.” “But you have no idea what my neighbor has done to us! He always drives over our piece of lawn next to his driveway!” (Yes, I’ve heard ALL of these!)

First, we need to remember that love is not a feeling. Love is an action. Love is demonstrated in our behavior, not in our feelings. That’s why Jesus can say something like, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” The apostle John says that love is abiding in God and living righteously. Jesus showed us that he loved us by laying down his life for us. He didn’t just say, “Oh, I love you all so much!” He demonstrated it by his actions. Do I love God? The way I live my life and keep God’s commandments gives me the answer to this. Am I committed to putting God’s will before my own? Am I dedicated to keeping his commands no matter how inconvenient or difficult it seems to be?

What about our neighbors? Many people don’t seem to have understood the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who is my neighbor? Anyone whom God puts in my path whether he lives near me or not. And again, it has nothing to do with feelings. Love for my neighbor is demonstrated when I treat them the way Jesus would treat them; or when I put their interests and needs before my own. When I lived in Michigan I tried to show love for my neighbors by shoveling the snow on their sidewalks while they were at work. (I have to find something new now that I live in California!) Love is about actions, not feelings. We need to get that through our heads if we want to keep the Great Commandment.


At 10:41 AM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

James Orr writes: "Love is that principle which leads one moral being to desire and delight in another, and reaches its highest form in that personal fellowship in which each lives in the life of the other, and finds his joy in imparting himself to the other, and in receiving back the outflow of that other's affection unto himself."

I found Orr's definition in J.I. Packer's Knowing God.

At 11:16 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Craver! Thanks for stopping by!

I have nothing but the highest respect for Dr. Packer and James Orr. But... don't you think Orr's definition implies or even requires a personal RELATIONSHIP with the person who is loved?

You might say, "Yes. That's the point!" And I agree, when it comes to loving God. But what about loving our neighbor who, according to the parable of the Samaritan, might be someone we don't know at all?

Do you think love can be demonstrated without "that personal fellowship in which each lives in the life of the other?"

Can we love our neighbor without "receiving back the outflow of that other's affection unto himself?"

Orr's definition is beautiful and very applicable where there is relationship. I just don't think it goes far enough for the church to understand what it means to love their neighbors.

One second, I need to just say again how much I respect James Orr. OK. Tell me what you think.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

Those are challenging ideas, Shiloh Guy. When I think of my marriage as a reference point, I want to know that my wife feels loved. When she reciprocates, it lets me know that I'm getting through. But this "Good Samaritan" scenario is quite a different situation, isn't it? The way you laid this out, it goes beyond my marriage perspective. We can initiate action on many encounters with individuals that would not or could not develop into an ongoing relationship.

This is tougher than I thought. Would you say that it is probably more like a lab experiment than an essay quiz?

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Sean Nemecek said...

I think the greatest example of love is Jesus laying down his life for our sins. If you use that as the ideal, you have one person (Jesus) who desires relationship with people who rebel against him (us). He gave his life when there was no relationship (or broken relationship). However, the very action was intended to create perfect relationship.

I think this is how we need to love our neighbors. Doing good with the intention of creating relationship. Then using that relationship to point our neighbors to relationship with Jesus.

Did I use the word "relationship" enough for you?

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...


I think we're onto something here. It IS much more a "field" lab experiment than an essay! You have it right as to your relationship with your wife. You're good at that. I'm thinking about people I need to reach out to whom I don't know.

That's where Sean comes in with the winning point. And yes, you used "relationship" more than enough! Reaching out in the love of Christ to bless people with whom I have no relationship is designed in the Kingdom to create relationship with Jesus and with me! THEN, Craver, we can begin to love in a deeper and more relational way, both giving and receiving love!

I have to admit that my thoughts on this are deeply affected by the failure of the church IN MY EXPERIENCE to reach out in love to the lost. The church too often prefers to stay safely within the fortress loving one another and not risking loving the hard to love.

Now what?


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