This week, my husband and I have been working on a pet project of mine. We’re turning our living room into a library. Although there are more shelves to finish, we brought in several boxes of books that have been stored in the barn for the last two and half years so that I could start sorting them. Many of those books belonged to my grandpa who, as I’ve told you before, was a preacher. I’m talking Bible commentaries, sermon notes, books on Christian living, etc. What always surprises me is the number of books he kept, with whose authors he disagreed. I know this because he would often write a scathing one or two sentence commentary inside the front cover or on the end pages of the offending work. I think he didn’t want what he considered bad information getting into innocent hands. Any time I pick up one of his books, I always look for those remarks. Then I make a mental note to read it myself and see what the problem was. Grandpa came from a time when annotating books was commonplace, so I can sometimes see what he was thinking as he read these books. That goes for the “good” ones too. That is a treasure to me now because, while Grandpa is still living, his mind is a victim of dementia.
This week, as I was sorting through the books, I found a small book called “The Greatest Thing in the World” by a man called Henry Drummond. For some reason, I picked it up and flipped through it. It is a short book, only 63 pages, but what a powerful message. The subject of the book is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the Love chapter. Mr. Drummond’s message is that the kind of love described in that chapter is indeed, the “greatest thing in the world”. The reason I am sharing this with you now, is because of one passage I read. I felt like God was telling me I was on the right track for this post which I had been working on since last week. It was a passage that Grandpa had also marked so he could find it again. Coincidence, you say? Maybe, but I was sorting close to a thousand books. What are the odds? I’ll post what I read further down. Oh, the book was written in the 1880’s.
Last week, we talked about Loving God. Now we’re going to talk about loving others.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
The Old Testament command to “love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus 19.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Lev 19:18)
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev 19:34)
What Jesus is saying, is that obeying those two commandments will cover all the rest of the law. If you love God, you will want to do what He says. You will do what he tells you to do, and not do what He forbids. Additionally, if you love your neighbor as yourself, you are going to treat them well, leaving you to, again, be obedient to the law.
This is what Mr. Drummond said in his little book.
“And you remember the profound remark which Paul makes elsewhere, ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Did you ever think what he meant by that? In those days men were working their passage to Heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments, and the hundred and ten other commandments which they had manufactured out of them. Christ said, I will show you a more simple way. If you do one thing, you will do these hundred and ten things, without ever thinking about them. If you love, you will unconsciously fulfil the whole law. And you can readily see for yourselves how that must be so. Take any of the commandments. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.’ If a man love God, you will not require to tell him that. Love is the fulfilling of that law. ‘Take not His name in vain.’ Would he ever dream of taking His name in vain if he loved Him? ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ Would he not be too glad to have one day in seven to dedicate more exclusively to the object of his affection? Love would fulfil all these laws regarding God. And so, if he loved Man, you would never think of telling him to honour his father and mother. He could not do anything else. It would be preposterous to tell him not to kill. You could only insult him if you suggested that he should not steal -.how could he steal from those he loved? It would be superfluous to beg him not to bear false witness against his neighbour. If he loved him it would be the last thing he would do. And you would never dream of urging him not to covet what his neighbours had. He would rather they possessed it than himself. In this way ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ It is the rule for fulfilling all rules, the new commandment for keeping all the old commandments, Christ’s one secret of the Christian life.” (The Greatest Thing in the World: pp 15-17)
See what I mean? By the way, you can read the entire text here.
In John 13, Jesus goes a little further. Speaking to His disciples during the last supper, He says,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John13:34-35)
As Christians, we love the Lord, and we love each other.
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (1 John 5:2-3)
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:6)
Yeah, I know. It sounds great, but the practice isn’t always easy. No, it isn’t. We live in a fallen world full of broken people. We are pulled by our own weaknesses. No one ever said it was easy. No one ever said that we would get it right every time this side of heaven.
So, how are we able to love God, our neighbor, and our brothers and sisters in Christ?
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
The last two thirds of the fourth chapter of 1 John is about how this love is possible.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. if anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:7-21)
It’s all about the relationship. When we truly understand how very much God loves us, the extending of that love to others begins to come naturally. God gave us His spirit to help us. It isn’t however, like flipping switch. It’s a growing process. One that will take the rest of our lives.
In his introduction to Mr. Drummond’s little book, evangelist D.L. Moody writes, “Would that we could all move into that Love chapter and live there.”