Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Free In Christ: Why Is Love The Great Commandment?

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greatest-commandment2The next chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ” asks:  Why is love the great commandment?

His first reason is:  Love is the only effective motivation for our actions.

Although love is commanded, it can hardly be instilled by command. A husband cannot gain or hold the love of his wife or children by command. If love is an action of the will in response to an authentic command, then it is a forced love. Compelled love is contrary to the nature of love. And if the greatest of commands cannot be fulfilled by demand, we may expect the same to be true of lesser commands.  Love must be instilled. It comes in response to love rather than lawful demands. God
“so loved the world” in order to create love in us. “But God shows His love for us in that
while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus took the form of man
and died for us to gain our loving response (Phil. 2:5-7; John 15:14). It is striking that
John did not say, “We love because he first commanded us.” He simply stated, “We love
because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Likewise, Paul recognized the true motivating
force in our lives as undeserved love, explaining that “the love of Christ controls us” (2
Cor. 5:14).
This is very true.  Love is the only effective motivation for our actions.  If our actions are motivated by something else (like fear) we may do the same action but not do it for the reason that God wanted.  God wants us to love Him, not to just do what He says.  Compliance can be achieved in many ways, but God is love and wants us to be connected with Him.
The second reason:  Love fulfills the intent of all other laws.
If a person loves his neighbor he will not steal his money or his wife; he will not murder
him or lie to him. This is the negative expression. In a positive expression, Jesus said,
“So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and
the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
“This is the law and the prophets.” “On these two commandments depend all the law and
the prophets.” Through the centuries, God has been trying to get us to love Him and one
another. That was the intent of the Law of Moses and the message of the prophets. Love
fulfills the purpose of God’s laws.
If we love others we will never do them any wrong and God’s commands were always supposed to lead to that purpose. Many have asked questions like:  “Were Adam and Eve allowed to do anything they wanted in the Garden?”.  The answer is “yes” and God could easily allow this because Adam and Eve loved each other and God completely in their pre-fall state.  Because of this love, they would never do anything wrong to each other or sin against one another in any way.  Love was their motivation and is supposed to be ours.  We were created to be in this love relationship between the Trinity and humanity.  Our morality is supposed to come through this and not through a written code.
The third reason:  Love lifts us above efforts for legal justification.
Cecil uses this illustration to show the difference between living in love and following a legal code:
Suppose that I am driving down a highway that crosses a body of water. I see a car
plunge off the bridge into the water. There are six persons in it who cannot swim. I stop
and hurriedly jump in and pull one person out. Then I go and rescue another. I am doing
a marvelous thing. A third person is pulled out. I am becoming a hero. They will have
me on the six o’clock news on Channel 4. Again I plunge in and rescue a fourth person.
Then I say to myself, “I think I have done my part now. I have saved more people than
most do in a lifetime. Now I think it is time for somebody else to do his part.” Then I let
the other two drown. Now, am I a hero? — or a criminal? Love does not ask, “What is
required?” It asks, “How may I serve?” The same concern will be shown for all as long
as there is love, need, and ability.
Love seeks the good of others instead of seeking to comply with regulations. This is
righteousness in the heart rather than legal justification.
We should not be trying to obey rules to earn God’s favor.  That is not how the New Covenant works.  Our actions must be motivated by love or we have a false motivation.
The final reason:  Love transcends any sense of duty.
While improperly motivated people may speak of duty, responsibility, and obligation,
love speaks of opportunity. Love seeks opportunity to express itself. “So then, as we
have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the
household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Thus, love transcends any sense of duty.
When we hear preachers use words like duty, responsibility, or talk about what we “must do” this should raise red flags. Love is supposed to be the motivation for our actions.  Love doesn’t ask “what must I do” but asks “what can I do”.  Its the difference between asking your significant other on Valentine’s Day:  “What do I have to get you so that you will continue being nice to me and not get mad?” and the person who spends hours coming up with exactly what will please the other person.  The second person loves just thinking about their beloved and what would make them happy.  The second person is the one who is motivated by love.  The first is motivated by something else and their actions cannot truly be called loving.
It is important that love is always our motivation.  When I realized this, I hit a point where I didn’t want to do anything religious.  I had spent so much of my life doing these things because I thought I had to that I had never given myself the option of deciding if I wanted to do them.  My motivation was wrong.
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Written by freeinchrist

March 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

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