“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important? Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them. Matthew 22:36-40
During this month when love to others is part of the conversation, I thought I would dig a little deeper into Christ’s words on this subject. As He spoke to the Sadducees and Pharisees who were trying to trap Him in His own words Christ talked about love. Undoubtedly, many of our Lord’s disciples were in the gathered crowd listening as they prepared for the Feast of Passover.
Knowing that His hour had come and that He would soon depart out of this world to the Father, Jesus presented a passionate message to His disciples. Beginning in John 13 and running through John 17, Jesus petitions believers then and now on the matter of love and unity. We can find four distinct divisions in the conclusion of His presentation in John 17: preservation (John 17:11), sanctification (v. 17), unity (vv. 11, 21-22), and participation in Jesus’ glory (v. 24).
It’s interesting to note that as Christ presents His concerns, warnings, prophecies, and proclamations, Jesus continually reminds His disciples about two key ingredients: love and unity.
Through the words from Peterson’s The Message, let’s examine some of Christ’s teachings. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.” John 13:34 “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.” John 14:15 “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood!” John 14:23
“This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.” John 15:12 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.” John 15:16
As if to emphasize this concept Jesus states, “Righteous Father, though the world has never known you, but I have known you, and these disciples know that you sent me on this mission. I have made you known to them— Who you are and what you do— And will continue to make you known, so that your love for me might be in them exactly as I am in them.” John 17:25-26
Jesus requested unity for future believers (John 11, 22). The divided church through its many denominations is in some ways a scandal. The cure, however, is not institutional union. Jesus was not praying for the unity of a single, worldwide, ecumenical church in which doctrinal heresy would be maintained along with orthodoxy. Instead, He was praying for a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will. There are great differences between uniformity, union, and unity.
At a time in this country when narcissism, abandonment, greed, piety, selfishness, entitlement, and lust are all too common, authentic Christians need to be unified and share their love for others. The goal of the unity of believers with each other and with God is twofold: (a) that the world will believe in the Son’s divine mission (know that You sent Me), and (b) that the world will sense that God’s love for believers is deep, intimate, and lasting as is His love for His Unique Son (vs. 26).
Let’s strive to show a Christ-like love and unity to the world.
What are some of the things you can do this week to demonstrate unity and love?
Who has recently offended you? What is your plan to unify your relationship?
Is forgiveness part of a Christ-like love? Is so, how can you work on forgiving others?
Jim E. Grassi, D. Min.