on loving God and loving people

I’ll be honest I have long thought this statement (love God; love people) to be a bit cliche-ish and ambiguous.  I mean, I know where it comes from it just seems to be ambiguous because in our day and age it is often a challenge to know what “love” even means anymore – what it looks like or how it works.

I think it is better to explain these sorts of things instead of just throwing them out there like some sort of catch phrase or slogan.  So, with that I’ll give it a try.  This phrase Love God and Love People comes from Jesus’ summation of the greatest commandment noted in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 12: 29-31: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In being asked what is the greatest commandment – Jesus says the greatest commandment is the Shema (Deut 6:5ff) – the command that you shall love God.  How do we do this?

I believe that while love has elements of affection towards another, when it comes to loving God, we demonstrate our love for God primarily through our obedience to him – meaning obedience to his commandments, requirements, and direction for our lives, both as individuals and as a community of faith.  For example, 1 John 5:3 tells us:

This is love for God: to obey his commands.

John then reminds us that God commands are not burdensome – and this is true.  They are not burdensome because God is the one who enables us to carry them out, through the power of the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.  In some ways, the Shema is the center of Torah or the Hebrew Bible; but really it is the center of a life based on the Torah, or, God’s direction for our lives, which is based on his written Word.

But Jesus didn’t leave it there – he chose to take it one step further and insist that out of our love for God we must love our neighbor.   That in essence love for God is seen in and through our love and acceptance of others.  Really, we are not able to love others unless we first have a love for God – because as it says in 1 John 4:7-8:

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.

Additionally, there is 1 John 4:21:

And he has given us this command: Whoever loveGod must also love his brother.

So we can see from here that the ability to love comes from God because the one who loves has born of God – in fact, if one is not a loving and accepting person it might be fair to wonder where that person is with the Lord, if they have been  born again – I know we cannot judge but generally speaking when a person is born of God, born from above, they should for all intents purposes be a generally loving person.

I also want to point out that one cannot say he or she loves God and yet not demonstrate love and acceptance towards others.  This is a false notion of what it means to love God – love for others and loving one another flows out and through our love for God – otherwise it is not a real godly love.  Note 1 John 4:20:

If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen.

Now of course, there are lots of seemingly loving and accepting people in the world – but the difference is that the one who is born of God also confesses Jesus Christ as the Son of God and that he has indeed come in the flesh – this person will freely confess Jesus the Messiah.  That is the primary difference – the role of Jesus in one’s heart and life.

One last thing.  Here is another reason we should show love and acceptance towards one another.  In Romans 15:7 Paul exhorts us:

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

So every believer born of God, needs to be accepting of one another.  Why?  Because Jesus has accepted us.   If Jesus has accepted us, who are we to reject others who love God and belong to him?

In summation then, to love God and love others isn’t just a slogan or a catch phrase, it is a biblical command.

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5 responses to “on loving God and loving people

  1. Those verses seemed like a cliche to me as well. When I was in seminary, my theology professor opened up those verses based on Martin Luther’s “Freedom of the Christian” and it exploded in reality in my life.

    The heart truly set free by the love of God can know love. We then act without fear of manipulation. We don’t worship God to “get something.” Nor do we act in a certain way toward someone to get a certain response. We worship God out of love and gratefulness. We act in love toward a neighbor because we want to bring Kingdom rightness (Dallas Willard phrase) into their lives.

    We live free from being manipulated or trying to manipulate. It was incredible insight that has changed my thought life and now I never hesitate to use those verses.

  2. “So every believer born of God, needs to be accepting of one another. Why? Because Jesus has accepted us. If Jesus has accepted us, who are we to reject others who love God and belong to him?”

    Right. See yourself as a parent who loves all his children. Wouldn’t you want your children to love each other too?

  3. KJV ‘receive’ is rather straightforward English gloss for the Greek PROSLAMBANW. It is ‘taking others into one’s heart’. The gloss ‘accept’ (as in NASB, HCSB, NIV, etc) in this context is a very unfortunate choice and a very misleading one, carrying very different word picture and nuance (i.e. such as ‘be tolerant of other’s behavior, etc.)

    BTW, ‘love’ in the scripture is not at all same as ‘love’ as used in everyday English; only minimal semantic overlap is there if any. Actually AGAPE and love can be pictured as lying on a different level or dimension. What we have as love at our human level is a mere shadow of love which God bestowed us in Yeshua the Messiah. The commandment of God ‘Love your God’ is impossible for us, except we have taken in the love God has give us. That’s how Yeshua fulfills the Torah.
    The second statement ‘love your neighbor as yourselves’ is most misunderstood one. People think it means (1) one first loves oneself and (2) as much one loves others. There is no command ‘love one self’. Actually ‘self-love’ is one of things listed to stay away, including love of money. It is to be read as “Be you loving your neighbor as your own being is loved by God.” There is no other way we can love others.
    Loving others – it’s not loving ‘people’. People here implies a (certain) group. Often times newer English translations renders as ‘people’ instead of ‘men’, but this practice has to be judiciously done, so that it would not give strange word pictures.

    As to ‘love command’. I doubt what Yeshua gave to His disciples would be called ‘command’, like a military ‘order’. In fact, ‘commandment’ is ‘word’ in Hebrew. Ten Commandments is ‘Ten Words’. It’s the word God says He wants for us to follow. No, Yeshua did not COMMAND ‘you shall love’, but He told ‘be you loving others’, that is, you better become a person who lives out loving others. Love should be our nature and our manner, not something we do because we are commanded to do. (Similar translation thought. It is not for children to be commanded ‘Obey your parents’, but rather ‘be you obeying your parents’ – be the kind of person obedient to parents. Not carrying out command of parents’ command but be obeying to see how parent’s will/desires/hearts may become children’s own will/desire. Of course, for human parents they have to know how to show their desire/will to the children and only with love it will move children’s hearts.

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