Back in the 70’s, Bill Gaither wrote a simple little song with simple little message.
I Am Loved
I am loved, I am loved
I can risk loving you
For the One who knows me best
Loves me most
I am loved you are loved
Won’t you please take my hand
We are free to love each other
We are loved
I said if You knew You wouldn’t want me
My scars are hidden by the face I wear
He said my child My scars go deeper
It was love for you that put them there
Forgiven I repeat it I’m forgiven
Clean before my Lord, I freely stand
Forgiven I can dare to love my brother
Forgiven I reach out to take your hand
We are free to love each other, we are loved
The Bill Gaither Trio recorded it, and the simple little song was an enormous hit! It became the theme for their concerts. My step dad took me to see them that year. I think I was about 15.
Everyone was wearing these pins. Churches were giving them out.
Yes, I am a pack rat.
You can hear the original Bill Gaither Trio recording here, but I’m adding a live version by the Gaither Vocal Band, posted to YouTube by nashvillehigh. At the beginning, Bill talks about those concerts back in the 70’s.
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.”
When someone mentions the commands of God, or the law of God, what comes to your mind? The book of Leviticus? The Ten Commandments? Hell fire and brimstone?
As we’ve discussed before, the Ten Commandments can be found in Exodus 20. In the midst of the do’s and don’ts, there is something interesting. Look at verses 4-6, paying particular attention to verse six
4.“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5.You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6.but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Do you see it?
but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Ex 20:6)
We know that God expects obedience to His commands, but did you realize He wants us to love Him?
Moses didn’t miss it. The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell to the Israelites. He recounts their journey together from the time they left Egypt, repeats much of the law, and admonishes them to be faithful and obedient to God. Nine different times, he mentions loving God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut 6:5)
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, (Deut 10:12)
Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. (Deut 11:1)
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— (Deut 11:13)
If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him— (Deut 11:22)
you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut 13:3)
because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the Lord your God and to walk always in obedience to him—then you are to set aside three more cities. (Deut 19:9)
The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. (Deut 30:6)
For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deut 30:16)
and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut 30:20)
When Moses died, Joshua took his place. He thought loving God was important too.
But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)
So be very careful to love the Lord your God. (23:11)
There are 57 other verses that mention loving God. That isn’t much when you consider there word love is found over 600 times in the Bible. Many times it refers to God’s love for us, not our love for Him. So how does one go about loving God? Well, read the verses above again. You’ll notice that love and obedience are often mentioned together. Ten of those 57 verses were written by David in the Psalms, and he specifically says that he loves the actual commands of God. Most of the time however, loving God is mentioned before obedience to Him. Does obedience flow naturally from a love relationship? What happens when there is no love in obedience?
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Is 29:13)
Sadly, scriptures are full of examples of people who obeyed the law, but did not appear to love God. More sadly, the church is full of examples too. Why is that? Could it be that people are taught human rules about religion instead of being lead to a love relationship with God? God demands our obedience, but He would rather it come from a heart full of love than a heart full of fear and resentment. That isn’t the kind of relationship He wants with us. Did you only obey your parents because you feared punishment?