Love God. That is the greatest commandment. It is one of the two commandments from which the entire covenant is formed (the other being to love others). Truly, though, the commandment is a bit abstract. How do we love someone who is completely different from us, even in ways we cannot comprehend and have never seen?
John gives us a very simple and basic statement of what it means to love God: “This is love: that we live according to his commands. This is the command that you heard from the beginning: live in love” (2 John 6 CEB).
To live in love is to live according to God’s commands. In other words, those that truly love God will obey Him. Those that seek to love Him more fully and completely will seek to obey Him more fully and completely in their lives.
God’s commandments are all-encompassing in our lives. He tells us how we ought to act and react. He tells us how we ought to treat others around us. The best summation of the commandments given to the followers of Christ are found in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5–7).
Do not forget as well, that Jesus also gave a commandment to evangelize. I know people who claim to be entirely sanctified and refuse to share the good news with other people. They think they perfectly love God and others and yet will not even invite other people to church. If they are going to break this fundamental commandment of Christ, then their love is not perfect.
God does not demand perfection from us. He expects growth. When we sin and fall short, we confess those sins and seek His help in truly repenting from them so we do not sin in that manner again. As we grow in our faith, we obey Christ more fully. We systematically overcome sins in our lives and obey Him. The Holy Spirit, who lives in us, helps us to do this. The church, the covenant community Christ set up on earth, is founded to help us do this. As we grow, we begin to love more deeply and fully. This leads to more obedience to Christ’s commandments. It is a beautiful image of a spiraling effect working its way from us to Christ.
Love God by obeying what He set before you. It is really quite simple, and He will help us to do just that.
The Free Methodist Church’s “Articles of Religion” state, “God’s law for all human life, personal and social, is expressed in two divine commands: Love the Lord God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. These commands reveal what is best for persons in their relationship with God, others and society. They set forth the principles of human duty in both individual and social action. They recognize God as the only Sovereign. All people as created by Him and in His image have the same inherent rights regardless of gender, race or color. All should therefore give God absolute obedience in their individual, social and political acts. They should strive to secure to everyone respect for their persons, their rights and their greatest happiness in the possession and exercise of the right within the moral law.”
The “Law of Life and Love” article is based on Matthew 22:35–39; John 15:17; Galatians 3:28 and 1 John 4:19-21. This article describes how Free Methodists ought to look at everyone in creation and how we ought to treat them. It also reminds us how we are to fulfill our civic duty in the countries in which we reside. This article reminds us that Christ wants us to make our decisions out of love — love for God and love for others.
It is important to remember that we are called to love. It is too easy to forget that God calls us to a life of love, not a life of being right. It is easier to be right on certain issues than to offer love to others, especially ones we think are completely wrong on certain issues. Imagine how the original apostles felt. Matthew was a tax collector, a collaborator with Rome, and Simon was a Zealot, a terrorist committed to destroying Rome and all who stood with them. These two were brought together in Christ. Simon, Andrew, James and John were blue-collar fishermen, and Philip and Nathaniel were students of the Torah, the white-collar trade of the day. They were brought together in Christ.
If we are not living in a love for God and a love for others, we are not living in Christ. It does not matter what we profess to believe. If we do not have love, we have nothing.
Steven Bruns, Ph.D., is the chair of the ministry and theology department at Central Christian College of Kansas and the author of “Subtle Lies: How A Bad Understanding of Pride, Humility, and Love Can Undermine Your Life in Christ.” Go to freemethodistpreacher.com for more of his writing.
1. Does your local church have a reputation of loving God and people?
2. How can we show love to people with whom we disagree on important issues?1