A scribe asked Jesus to explain, in a nutshell, the bottom line of what it meant to follow God.
In his reply to the Scribe, Jesus pulls together two well-known passages of Old Testament Scripture:
One of the teachers of the law came and asked Jesus, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "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 neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:28-34)
The first commandment concerns itself with love for God; the other with love for your neighbour. We have nicknamed them the Great Commandments. Everything written in the Bible boils down to these two great commandments, and the key to Christian living is found in these words: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
This is the top priority. This is where it all begins. This is where true living begins. This is where understanding love that is real, begins! This is where spirituality, union with God, positive thinking, great personal relations, exciting church membership, successful parenting and a glorious marriage begins. Loving God is the source of a dynamic, caring, meaningful life!
And we are to love our neighbour – all other people like we love our own lives!
In Romans 12 Paul emphasizes love as our main responsibility in the Church of Christ. Whether it is our love for the Lord, fellow-believers, my neighbour or even my “enemy” – our love must be sincere and genuine. If love is faked it consists of empty words and we must take care that “our deeds do not speak so loudly that others cannot hear our words of love”.
Romans 12: 9 “Avoid whatever is evil; cling to whatever is good.”
Whenever Paul thinks of the faith community, he teaches that they are a family in the Lord.
Romans 12:10 says: Be devoted to one another in family love. Honour one another above yourselves.
We have one Father. The bond that unites the members of the family in the Lord has pre-eminence to any other bond or loyalty in our lives. The members of the “Christ-family” should do all in their power to be and remain devoted to each other in tender affection.
This family affection implies compassion, unity, peace, support and respect – “especially to those who are of the household of faith”. (Gal 6:10).
If we do not serve the Lord by honouring (“loving”) our brothers and sisters in Christ above ourselves, the church becomes a cesspool of gossip, click forming, caucuses and back stabbing that tears God’s church apart.
“Therefore, if it is possible, as far it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12: 18) The key to being the Church that Jesus prayed for (Jn 17) is to find the wisdom from above that makes us peace-making members of the household of God. Jesus said, blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called children of God.
Peace-makers are people whose lives and deeds confirm that they love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind and the God of peace leads them and that they are God’s children who love their brothers and sisters.
Live at peace with everyone “if it is possible”, Paul says. There are circumstances when living in peace becomes impossible. Peace without sanctification and obedience to God is no peace at all. If the maintenance of peace means the sacrifice of truth, peace is “not possible”.
Paul also says to live in peace “ …as far as it depends on you.” He recognises that peace comes from all sides. One party cannot maintain the Lord’s peace if other parties “declare war” against them.
But we know from 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 8 that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Jesus-love always remains our standard and Jesus’ sacrificial love our example!