In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest, and He responds by saying, “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 22:27-40 ESV) Is it really possible that all the commandments could be summed up with just loving God and loving our neighbor?
It is, but only if we understand what love really is. We use that word love so often in our culture today, that it has almost lost its meaning entirely. We love our vehicles, homes, toys, food, family, friends, children, and spouses; but we don’t love any of them in the same way.
So, what does love really mean? Is it the warm fuzzy feelings that we get from comfort, companionship and protection? Or is love really something else?
The Greek language had multiple words for love, all of them being slightly different. The word that Jesus used in Matthew 22 for love is a unique one, and you may have heard of it before, it was the Greek word Agape. Agape is different than all the other words used for love in Greek.
All the other words for love, involve loving something because you get something in return, while Agape is an unconditional love.
Agape love says of something or someone you are more important and more valuable than I am, and whatever I do will have your best interests in mind.
When Jesus told us to love God with all of our being and love our neighbor as ourselves, He wasn’t talking about having warm fuzzy feelings. Instead, He was telling us to consider God to be more valuable than ourselves and to consider whether or not our actions glorify God.
He was also telling us to consider our neighbors as more valuable than ourselves and to always act with their best interests in mind. This means not necessarily doing what they want or even what makes them happy, but instead what is truly best for them. What they want or even what makes them happy, but instead what is truly best for them. When we understand that, then yes, love perfectly and simply sums up the whole Law of God.
Jesus makes it clear and simple, but that doesn’t mean that He makes it easy to accomplish. In fact, fulfilling the Law of God perfectly is impossible. If we are being honest with ourselves, we have failed to love God as we should, and we have failed to love our neighbors as ourselves. We haven’t even just failed once or twice, we fail day in and day out. We have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and the good we have left undone. Wretched people that we are who will save us from our bodies of death.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Can you guess what word Jesus used there for God’s love of the word? It’s Agape. God, the Creator, and Sustainer of all things looked at sinful humanity and decided that we were more valuable than He is, and He acted in our best interests. The proof of this came in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God did not spare His own Son but instead sent Him to die that mankind might be redeemed.
The life Jesus lived, was the perfect and sinless life that we could never live. He perfectly loved God and His neighbor as Himself. He loved mankind so much that He laid down His life, bearing our sin and paying the full price for it on the cross.
By grace and through faith, we receive the forgiveness of sins, the righteous life of Christ is credited to our account, and we have the sure hope of eternal life with our God. Rest in Christ, and trust in all that He accomplished with His sinless life and sacrificial death.