What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Love is such a fascinating word. It’s probably one of the first words we learned as a child. It is perhaps one of the most commonly used words in our vocabulary.

If a survey were taken of 100 different people we might get 100 different answers or examples as to what love is: “I love my job, dog, car, favorite team, movie, color or my family.”

Often, our definition of love involves a feeling or emotion. But those are actually the effects of love, not the cause.

The Greatest Commandment

Early in Jesus’ ministry, He was asked the question “which is the greatest commandment?”

The Lord’s answer was: “To love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, with all of thy soul, with all of thy mind, and with all of thy strength. And the second is like, namely this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

It was a brilliant answer because it summarized the Ten Commandments. If we do love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, then it follows that we will:

  • Not have any other gods before Him
  • Not worship idols
  • Respect His name
  • Honor His day.

And if we love our neighbor as ourself then we will:

  • Honor our parents
  • Not commit murder
  • Not commit adultery
  • Not steal
  • Not lie
  • Not covet

Change Your Motive

But, He did something more than just summarizing the Ten Commandments in that He also changed the motive behind the behavior.

In the Old Testament God’s people were to keep the law but over time it morphed into legalism and religiosity, a long list of do’s and don’ts. They did the right thing but for the wrong reason.

This is why some of our Lord’s harshest words were not to sinners but to the Pharisees. He said “outwardly you obey Me but inwardly your heart is far from Me” and “you are like whitewashed sepulchres full of dead men’s bones.”

Jesus said in John 14:15 “if you love Me you will keep My commandments.” We are to obey His commandments; but the driving force is to be our love for Him, not rituals or legalism.

So, the all important question becomes what is love?

What Is Love?

Perhaps the best known usage of the word “love” in Scripture is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Simply put, true Biblical love is giving.

A willful choice on our part to give whatever we have that is in the genuine best interest of the recipient, first to God, and then to others.

If our primary focus is God, then what do we have that we can give Him as an expression of our love? The traditional “church” answer may be to give Him our heart, our lives, our everything.

A Biblical answer is “obedience” as seen in John 14:15; but surely the scribes and the Pharisees obeyed the law, yet their hearts were far from Him. Perhaps there’s something simpler, more concrete.

Daily Bread

The original question was “Which is the greatest commandment?” referring to the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. He prefaced the first commandment by reminding the Israelites where He found them—as slaves in Egypt.

When they left Egypt and reached the wilderness, hungry and tired, God miraculously provided Manna for them to eat. When they finished eating, the Israelites gathered leftovers of the Manna to hide in their tents, just in case they needed it the next day.

By the second day, all of the Manna in their tents had spoiled. Yet, God always provided a fresh supply. From the very beginning, God’s greatest desire was that His people trust Him.

Moses reminded the Israelites of this 40 years later when he said that God had allowed them to hunger in the wilderness to prove what was in their hearts whether they would trust Him or not.  Interesting that in the Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread.

Love is Trust

The foundation of any relationship must be trust. We cannot trust a God that we don’t love, and we cannot love a God we don’t trust. Our obedience to God is the result of our trust in Him, our abiding relationship.

That is what the Pharisees were missing—trust. Rather than trusting in God or Christ alone, they were trusting in themselves and their own ability to keep the law. One definition of trust is an act of our will based on what we believe to be true of the object of our trust.

Every twist and turn in our lives, every challenge, hardship or adversity is an opportunity for us to love and trust Him more, learning to live by faith and not by sight.

There are a myriad of things for us to trust in other that God alone. We may trust in ourselves, our talent, education, health, money, careers, our 401-K, our children or family.  Each of us makes a thousand choices a day of whom or what we will love.

Love is Obedience

If we truly love God our choices will be based on our trust in and obedience to Him.  If there is something or someone that is more dear to us than God, that consumes more of our thoughts, time, energy, or passion; then that reveals what our heart truly loves, trusts, and ultimately obeys.

  • Who or what  is the first thing to come to our mind when completing the statement “I’m okay because__________________?”
  • Who or what do we credit when things are going extremely well in our lives?
  • Who or what do we turn to when calamity enters our lives?

There is an old hymn that begin “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” It really can be that simple.