Peninsula Community Church
Living Like Christ
January 22, 2017
Matthew 22:36-40“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
For some time I have been working through this question of what does it mean to be Christlike. As I have navigated this thought process I have discovered and rediscovered some principles that I would like to share with you so that together we can grow and be more like Christ in all we do.
Before we look at the meaning of this passage perhaps it would help us to understand the context of the passage. In Jesus’ day it was not uncommon for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the religious leaders to debate and argue the meaning of the law and which law or laws had more relevance to their life. In fact, the religious leaders of that day would often be divided and segregated around the laws they elevated as important. We might look at these religious leaders with disdain but we do the same thing so often. We try to elevate one law or commandment above another to show our spiritual superiority to others. We can also elevate one law that is our pet peeve and devalue other laws that do not seem to apply to us. I can remember growing up in the church as a teenager that it seemed that my spirituality was measured more by my outward appearance than the quality of my heart.
In our story today, we find that a young lawyer asking Jesus just such a question about the law. The lawyer’s basis for the question to see which law Jesus valued and which law he would place above the other laws. When Jesus gave His answer He surprised the religious leaders. Rather than selecting one law to be raised against all of the other laws, He summed up the whole law in just two statements. He stated that the law was simply defined as loving God and loving others as we would love ourself. He did not elevate one law above another but in essence He was saying that all of the law is important and what is most important is the attitude and mindset of keeping the law.
To understand this approach to the law, we must have a proper understanding of the meaning of love. To begin with love is not defined by selfishness and self-motivation. True love is a concept that is foreign to us in many ways because the word love has been abused and misused. Too often it is a ploy of guilt and dishonesty. How often have you heard someone say, “if you loved me you would do X”? A young man in the backseat of his car with a young girl might say “if you really loved me you would have sex with me.” That is bribery and guilt and that has no place in the scheme of love. Love and guilt never cohabit together. They are mutually exclusive and they are no way cut from the same cloth. Another negative response to love is the fact that a false love can become very self-centered rather than God-focused or others focused.
As we study the Scripture we find that the root of Christlikeness is love thus everything about Christ exudes love including His mission, His calling, His actions, and His thoughts. He committed to give Himself for us was so that we would not have to die. His gave us forgiveness. His gave us grace. All of life was centered and focused in a love that is so amazing that we cannot truly understand the truth of love with our finite minds. It is unfortunate that with our faulty view of love we cannot comprehend the full majestic love that He extends to us. His love is Agape love which is the highest form of love there is. Agape love is a self-sacrificing love. It is the love that is expressed in the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. It is the love that is expressed when Paul commanded husbands to love their wives as Christ so loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-29). It is a selfless kind of love. It is the kind of love that Paul uses to challenge believers to put others before themselves (Philippians 2:3). Once again all of this is evidenced through the sacrificial giving of Jesus’ life on the cross. Listen to the words of 1 John 4:13-21. In so many ways this passage sums up the gift of love given to us by God.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I do not believe that it is coincidence that Jesus used the term agape love to underscore His summation of what the greatest law would be. You see a right perspective of God’s love allows us to keep His law in a way that would not be possible apart from His love. You see love is the motivating factor of our obedience. Love motivates us to keep God’s law because we love Him, we love others, but we also love ourselves. In fact, we are a conduit for God’s love. People will not know God’s love apart from His believers exhibiting love to those around them.
In this passage, Jesus suggests that the law of God is summarized by loving God. Notice that He defines love as an investment of our heart, our soul, and our mind to loving God. We do not hold anything back from loving God completely and in total. It is a full commitment to love God with all that we are. Think about it if you will. We love God with our heart, the seat of our emotions. We love God with our mind, the seat of our intellect and our thoughts. We love God with our soul which is our identity and what we have been called by God to be. Notice something in this passage. We love God with all of our hearts and our minds. Love is not just seated in our emotions. It is also seated in our minds. True love does not divide the heart and the mind. Too often we think that love is solely an emotional response but that is so far from the truth. True love is based in the knowledge of God.
Secondly, we are to love others. The problem that exists is that we can say we love God but if we do not love people one could question one’s commitment and love for Christ. Without love we cannot actually live like Christ. Before we can love others we must have a genuine love for God. The fact is when we love people more can be done through love than through any other means. Love draws believers and non believers alike to Him. As representatives of Christ, we are to lead people toward reconciliation with Him. To do so love must be our most powerful vehicle. If they see in us the same attitude and lifestyle as Christ, they will be drawn to us, and we then point them to Him.
To accomplish this, let us consider some of the ways Christ showed His amazing love in the New Testament. First of all, He forgave the woman who had been accused of adultery and He confronted her accusers with their sin. This was a great act of love and grace. He could have been legalistic in his approach but the law of love manifested itself and she was won to Him. Through His love a multitude of sin was covered but note He did not deny the sin nor did He compromise with the sin. He, however, was willing to forgive and cover the sin and win the soul.
The woman at the well is another example of Christ’s love. He told His disciples that He had to go through Samaria. This was unheard of for the Jews as they did everything in their power to avoid this one city. There was no love loss between the Jews and the Samaritans. To put it mildly they hated each other. During the Assyrian captivity some of the Jews stayed in Israel and in so doing they ended up intermarrying with the Assyrians who had invaded their land. They were considered to be half-Jews and a half-Jew is no Jew at all. Once in the village, Jesus encountered a woman who came to draw water from the well. There was all kinds of reasons for Jesus to reject this woman. First, no man was to talk with a woman directly. Specifically they were not to speak to Samaritan women under any circumstance. By His love, He spoke to her and offered her a drink of water that would satisfy her thirst forever.
Of course the greatest act of love was Christ’s willingness to go to the cross where He died for everyone’s sin. That is the highest love possible. The innocent one who had no sin was willing to take on all of mankind’s sin so that He could offer them forgiveness and eternal life. That is love. That is complete love. That is the love that God wants us to exhibit. He wants and desires that we exhibit that kind of love. He wants us to love ourselves not in a narcissistic way but in who we are in Christ so that we can be a conduit of His love to others. You might say that it is impossible to do so but with Christ all things are possible. As we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind we find it is easier to love the unlovable. Embracing God’s love helps us to give grace to the unlovable.
But we have a problem. Too often we are not motivated by love but rather from selfishness and self-centeredness. The problem too often is that we do things for personal praise and success rather than to extend true love to those around us. The problem is exasperated by those we encounter who seem to be unlovable but when we recognize the love of God and we exhibit His love things begin to change.
So how do we work this out? Where we have failed to love others we must repent and change our ways. Remember we do not have to compromise our beliefs but we must show love. The problem we have is a false view of love in that we believe that loving a person in sin is accepting that person’s sin. We can love the person but hate the sin. You will never run out of opportunities to love by faith. Agape kind of love is an act of the will, not just an emotion. You love by faith. By faith, you can claim God’s favor and exercise the act of love. In daily life, your love will be warmed by joy, watered by tears, and spread by the winds of circumstances.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom