My husband has this specific message that he’s believed in ever since we met. (In fact, hearing him talk about it at the Baptist Student Union devotion time was what first drew me to him!) It’s a simple message that has such a profound impact: love.
It’s a message that he was blessed to share with about 30 youth last Friday evening at a lock-in (hosted by our friends, Brian and Laura Leigh). How if you say you love God but hate your brother, you’re a liar. If you don’t love according to 1 Corinthians 13, you don’t really love. (And, yes, we all fail in that area because we aren’t perfect, but this is our standard.) And this love is not just found in 1 John or 1 Corinthians but throughout the Bible. In fact, my husband firmly believes that the Bible is nothing but God saying He loves us and wants a relationship with us. And I can’t help but see the same theme.
This morning, for example, I read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. From chapter 5 to chapter 7, there’s a theme that I noticed. Can you guess what it is? Yep…love! “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…If you remember that your brother has a complaint against you, go make it right…Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy…Blessed are you when men persecute you and spitefully revile against you for My sake…Judge not that you be not judged, for in the manner that you judge you yourself shall be judged…”
In this, Jesus’ first message to, well, anyone (as far as we know), He makes it clear that the difference between the Judaic law and the Christian “law” is love. Love is what makes Jesus the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. I have heard and even said many times that the difference between the two is the heart in which something is done…but if it isn’t done in love, is it really done with the right heart?
I think that’s what the real difference between the Pharisees and Jesus was. They were doing lists of things because they looked right, but Jesus did all of His actions out of love.
The lists of things to do, items to check off, they’re nothing without love. Isn’t that what Paul was saying?
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We could easily say, “If I read my Bible, pray for others, go to church and Sunday School, if I lead the women’s ministry and volunteer to lead every youth event, if I visit the homeless and the shut-ins and give half of my salary to the church but have not love, I am nothing.”
Yes, it looks good on paper. It looks great to everyone at church and in the community. But to God? Paul once again says it best.
“…If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:4-8).
When Paul says that he counts these great things that he has done as rubbish, he means the very lowest form of crap. (Sorry to be crass, but the actual word used here in the Greek? Well, it’s the most vulgar form of the word “poo” you can get…) These things that we do, that we strive for? Compared to knowing Christ, they are rubbish.
And when we don’t do them out. of. love, they are worthless.
It boils down to this: if we love God, we will love our brothers (and sisters). And if we love God, we will serve Him out of love, not fear or duty.
Sharing my heart this morning over at Ann’s.