Luke 10:25-28(NKJV) 25And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 28And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
(Over the next two weeks I will be traveling. As usual, when I am on the road, I may not have the time or opportunity to blog. Keep checking though as I will try to get as many posts up as possible.)
Last week we spent our time together looking at one of the most important concepts in the Word of God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:40 that all the law and the prophets hang on two commandments. You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. We want to continue learning about love this week.
In Luke 10, we come upon another story that centers on these two very important commandments. The 70 believers that Jesus sent out to ministry have returned to him rejoicing. He tells them to remember what is important. It is wonderful that they were able to bring freedom to people because demons obeyed them; it is more wonderful to remember that their names are written in the Lambs book of life. In verse 21 Jesus makes an open statement that was heard by those around him.
Luke 10:21(NKJV) 21In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
Many people heard this statement. One of them was a certain lawyer. This lawyer was one of the “wise and prudent” people Jesus mentions in verse 21. I can imagine that he was not terribly excited about what Jesus had to say. This lawyer tested Jesus by asking him what he must do to receive eternal life.
I can understand his point of view. He had studied the law his whole life. The people that Jesus was praising probably had little education if any. Jesus seems to praise them for knowing things that the “wise and prudent” do not. In addition, it seems that miracles were produced through their ministries. This Pharisee was not producing any miracles. Jesus seemed to indicate that these unlearned people had something he did not. What was this thing and how could he get it?
I do not think he was asking in order to find out what Jesus had to say. I think his was trying to justify his own position. He was a Pharisee and a lawyer. He was as deserving of eternal life as any of the people sent out by Jesus. I believe he fully expected to be able to say, “I have done that and more.” However, that is not the way this story playes out.
The action in this story is very similar to the action in Matthew 22. I have tried to determine if this might have been the same story told from a very different perspective or if it was another instance entirely centered around the same commandments. It seems that the differences make it likely that it was a separate instance. The question asked by the lawyer is not the same as in Matthew 22. The person quoting these commandments is not the same and the situation is different.
In this story, the lawyer wants to know what he has to do to receive eternal life. Jesus asks him what his “legal” opinion is. The man’s response was the same as Jesus’ response had been in Matthew 22. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
Jesus commends him on his insight. He says, “If you keep these two commandments you will have what you are looking for.” It would seem the man should have been pleased with Jesus’ answer. All he had to do was what he stated he believed. Surely, he was already doing that. However, it would seem that Jesus’ answer did not have that affect on this lawyer. He then asks Jesus a very important question. “Who is my neighbor?”
Keeping these two commandments does not seem so hard in theory but it is much more difficult in practice. Loving God with the highest level of affection, the whole of the strength of my life and allowing this love to dominate my thinking is not easy. Loving my neighbor as myself is not only difficult, but it is in the open. You can say you love God, and only you and God will know the difference. However, if you say you love your neighbor and do not act on that love, the whole world can see. The problem with these commandments is that they are impossible to keep if we understand love strictly in a natural, human context.
Whenever we think of love, we immediately focus on emotion. Natural love is emotion based. We feel love. There are other elements of natural love, but it all begins with an emotion. If we do not feel we think we do not love. In the natural, this is true. However, these two commandments are not based in natural love. If we wait to feel this kind of love before we believe in it or apply it, we will fail.
I may feel great love toward God. He has saved me from eternal torment. This is very important to me and I am, literally, eternally grateful. However, we all must admit that there are many times when we do not feel that we love God with our whole heart, soul and mind. If we wait for the feelings before we act on that love, we would never act
This is also true when we think of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Some neighbors are a joy to have and some are not. We have all had neighbors living next to us that were difficult. We lived in one apartment when we were first in the ministry that was located right next to our landlord. He was a difficult man. He was always watching us to make sure we were not damaging his property. I often had to work to hold my temper as he angrily confronted me for some imagined transgression or another. Loving this man with emotion was not possible. Natural love could not get the job done.
God’s love is very different from natural love. Natural love begins in the emotions. The emotions will usually lead to decision. We fall in love with our future mate based on attraction, which then leads to deep emotional attachment. The emotional attachment leads to a decision to marry and spend the rest of life together. Babies are born and when we first see them, the emotions are indescribable. Those emotions lead to many decisions encompassing the rest of our lives. Natural love is emotion based. Decisions rest upon the base of emotion. This is as it should be if we are dealing strictly with natural love.
However, the love that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 22 and Luke 10, as well as most other places in the bible, is not natural love. It is far more powerful and effective than natural love even at its best. It is the love of God. In Greek, the word is Agape. The most important difference between natural love and God’s love is where it is based. Natural love is based in emotion. Agape love is based in decision. God does not wait to feel something before he acts in love towards you. He makes a decision to act in love.
If we will ever walk in the two commandments Jesus calls pivotal to all spirituality, we must do it with this new kind of love that Jesus introduced into our hearts at the new birth. We must decide to love. We cannot wait to feel love. We must choose to obey the Word of God and act according to what the Bible tells us love looks like. If we love based on decision we will find that the emotions will follow. If we wait for the emotions before we act, we will never keep these commandments the way we must. More tomorrow.