But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he 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.”
Something I’m noticing about love is that it is all about relationship. As I’ve said before, I think love is essentially viewing and relating to others based on the finished work of Christ, even when they are dwelling in and acting from their selfish, fearful, ignorant, and often ugly flesh nature. Within the finished work of Christ, ALL men have died and been reconciled. It’s true, of course, that many are unable or unwilling to accept this truth and walk in it (fear resists doing so, as it continually requires giving up what had been known as your “life”). The thing about love is, even if another can’t or won’t accept their reconciliation and walk in it, we can accept it for them, and deal with them accordingly. This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:16 when he wrote that we are to “regard no one according to the flesh.” I believe that doing this is the essence of what is known as “mercy”!
Again, love is all about relationship, so if love is present, it will have a drastic effect on the way we view and treat others, with foolishly extravagant kindness and patience and generosity and forgiveness. For example, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-8 (WEB). This chapter famously points out several of love’s attributes, nearly all of which have to do with the way we relate to other people. My comments are in blue: “Love is patient and is kind (toward others); love doesn’t envy (what others are or have); Love doesn’t brag (doesn’t focus on itself); is not proud (doesn’t look down on others); doesn’t behave itself inappropriately (toward others); doesn’t seek its own way (but the way of others); is not provoked (by others); takes no account of evil (done to it by others); doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth (notices and cultivates whatever is of the truth in others); bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (for the sake of others). Love never fails (it can’t, because it’s based on an unchangeable, FINISHED work).“
1 Corinthians 13 is unique, but there are other scriptures which make this same point nearly as clearly:
1 John 3:16-18: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (“our life” largely consists of the rights and demands of our flesh, including many that are legitimate and acceptable!). But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (Divine love will never see a brother in need without helping as it is able). Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
John 15:12-13: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” –I don’t understand all this perfectly, but it seems to me the reason the greatest love is laying down your life for the sake of others is because doing so IS love, in it’s matured/perfected state!!! We should love one-another as ourselves, remembering that though we don’t all have the same faith, or the same gifts, we are all part of one new birth into one spirit, and none of us have life outside of this. As 1 John 3:16 says above, we “know love” because it was first expressed by Jesus Christ, who dealt with us not according to law or our weak flesh, but according to the mercy, grace and will of God.
Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.” -The “incense” God truly enjoys is the expression of genuine love, founded on truth and wisdom.
Colossians 3:12-14: “Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. Above all these things, walk in love, which is the bond of perfection.” -Love is what underlies these virtues, ensuring they endure and mature.
Luke 6:31-38: “As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? (None). For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. (Such love is immature at best. It isn’t based on the death and reconciliation made by one for all). But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High (you will be following the example of Jesus Christ and living according to the spirit which was poured out due to the reconciliation initiated in and by him); for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.”