We all know what love is. Love is the central tenet of Christianity, the very ethic the church is built on. Love is the goal. You’ve probably recently been in a class, listened to a sermon, and even talked about the importance, and need for love.
For love is all the rage right now. We are to be a loving church. We are to love our spouses. Love is the remedy to the ills of our culture, to war, to hate, to racism. Love your friends, love your enemies. Love. Love. Love. Certainly if the Beatles sang about it then we must need it. We all know how good, how right, and how loving love is. For God so loved the world, love your neighbor, God loves you, Jesus loves you.
The fact is, we love to love love.
But enough with that nonsense.
Jesus boils down all the commands into two laws: love God and love your neighbor. But we like to take these commands and make them sequential. First I’ll learn to love God and spend all my time doing the things that I think are loving to God: spending time in church, praying, reading my Bible. Then I’ll learn to love my neighbor and maybe spend some time doing it.
So we often get bogged down in the steps of love, spending our time not in the actual doing of love, but in the study of it. For anyone who has made themselves vulnerable in love or sacrificed time and comfort for the sake of love knows that it’s much easier to talk about and ask questions who are neighbors are then to be a neighbor. We do this because the idea of love is much prettier and romantic then the reality.
I’ve seen this point more clearly in my own life recently. Charlotte and I thought for a while that we’d move to East Austin, so we could live a life of love where we resided. So we could live in a place of real need and share our lives with those different from us.
A few weeks ago we began looking for a new rent place. A couple times in our search we talked about being in a neighborhood with need, but in the end we found a place where the niceness of the rent home and the convenience of its location won out to any preconceived ideal we had. When it comes to the actual work of love, it seems life and reality get messy.
The reason I believe Jesus places these two commands together as he does, is because they are inseparable from one another.
I’ve heard it said that “the way we love others is the way we love God.” The writer of 1 Jn says that if “we say we love God , but hate our brothers and sisters then we are liars.” I like to reword Jesus’ commands to read:
"Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as if they are all you have.”
We simply cannot separate our love for God and our love for others. There is simply no separation between love we get to study and think about and love we get to live out.
Jesus reveals this fact with a story in Matt. 25:31-46, where he tells about when he will return and judge the nations, including us. In this story, Jesus separated the crowd not based on what they believed about love, but how they practiced it. And in practicing love for the prisoner, the hungry, the poor, the outcast of their society, the sheep were actually practicing love toward God but didn’t even realize it.
By loving the most unlovable, the sheep were getting to know and spend time with their Creator, their redeemer, with Jesus himself.
Now I don’t mean for this sermon to be a guilt trip or to make us feel bad for how much we don’t love,
But rather awaken us to the truth that love lives not in our Sunday school rooms, but in our, offices, and jobs and classrooms;
not in our thoughts and dreams, but in our daily routines,
and not simply in our study but how we live towards our enemy.
If living out love were easy, then Christ had no need to die for the love’s sake, but exactly because God suffered and took on our burden, he has made the life of love a real possibility.