The law of love Refs
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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Leviticus 19:1-18

Woven throughout the Bible, the law of love forms the foundation of the gospel message and of a believer’s life. Without love, there is no hope. In fact, the message of grace is God’s message of love. Remove his examples of forgiveness, patience, mercy, gentleness and kindness, and the Bible would be mostly blank pages.

Sometimes it is not easy to accept God’s love, and it can be equally difficult to demonstrate the same love ourselves. Yet, if we earnestly seek salvation, we must love both God and our neighbours with all our being.

1. (a) What do these verses remind you of?
(b) How would you summarize these laws?
2. Should you keep all these laws today? Consider verse 13.
3. Read Deuteronomy 5:6-21. What are the main differences between these passages?
4. Read John 13:34 and Matthew 22:36-40. Why did Christ say it was a new commandment?
5. When do you find it hard to love your neighbour? Give a few examples.

The greatest commandment

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

Imagine if this passage read like the following:

Hate the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Even though your Creator made you and gave everything for you, including his own son, be selfish: despise him, reject him, ignore him, sin anyway, follow other untrue gods. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:‘Hate your neighbour and love yourself.’ For if you don’t, your neighbour will take advantage of you and you will suffer in your weakness. May the strongest win.

Ridiculous! But is it?

Sadly, many people fall into the trap of watering down or ignoring the law of love-total commitment to loving God and others seems too much to ask. Non-Christians consider it a joke, thinking that only weak people obey.

Loving God first
If we accept God’s great mercy and love, then we will naturally want to show mercy and love to others. Otherwise, it is false religion.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us:He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)

God pours love over us even though we don’t deserve it. Likewise, we must pour love over others whether they deserve it or not. Paul was humbled by the love of Christ and said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Remember:

• love is not optional-it is a command and essential to true Christianity; John 13:34
• love is not an uncontrollable emotion-it is a choice; 1 Corinthians 14:1
• love is not just a feeling-it is expressed through action. 1 John 3:18

As Paul said,

May the Lord make your [agap´e] love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)


Jesus Christ lived and died for us because he loved us truly. If we understand our own sinfulness and need for forgiveness, we will follow his example and give our lives in love to others.

The words behind love

The Greeks had at least four words for love.

Eros   This is mainly used for love between men and women. It is passionate, sexual love.
Interestingly, the New Testament does not use this word at all.
Storgé   This is to do with family affection-the love of parents for children and children for parents. Although the word does not occur in the New Testament, a related word does in Romans 12:10-“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” This suggests that followers of Jesus should treat each other as family members.
Philia   This means to look on someone with affection. It is the love of warm friendship. For example, it is used of the love of Jesus for Lazarus (John 11:3,36). We should have this kind of love for other believers (Romans 12:10; Hebrews 13:1; 2 Peter 1:7).
Agapé   This is the word the New Testament most commonly uses for the love we must have for others. It does not have the warmth of philia and is a conscious choice rather than an emotion we feel. Agap´e is love in action. It is to seek to be kind to others despite what they do to us. It is a self-sacrificing love which puts other people first. We are told to love one another in this way (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11). We should even love our enemies in this way (Matthew 5:44). Agap´e love is a mark of a true believer (John 13:34-35).

God’s love for us
Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 7:8-12; Psalm 23:6; 103:8-13; 107; 136; Hosea 1:6-7; John 3:16; 16:27; Romans 5:5-8; 8:39; Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 John 3:1,16.
Loving God
Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 11:1,13,22; 13:3; 30:16,20; Joshua 22:5; 23:11; Hosea 12:6; Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 John 5:3.
Loving others
Leviticus 19:18,34; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; John 13:34-35; 15:12; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 2 Peter 1:7; 1 John 3:14-18,23; 4:7-5:3; 2 John 5-6.
Loving your enemies
Exodus 23:4-5; Proverbs 25:21-22; Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-35; Romans 12:14-21; 1 Peter 3:9.


1. Is love always our own choice, or can we love someone we are commanded to love? Is it possible to love someone if
we don’t feel like it?
2. Do you find it hard to love God? Explain.

(a) Have there been specific times in your life when you’ve been angry with God? Is this wrong? Consider the experiences of Jonah and Job.
(b) Have you ever rejected God’s love?
(c) Have you ever felt rejected by God? Why is this wrong?
(d) Have you ever felt unworthy when God’s love was shown to you?
(e) Looking back at these experiences, what have you learnt about yourself and God?

3. There are many different ways of showing love. Discuss the following actions. What do they reveal about the outworking of love? Which do you find particularly hard to do?

• forgiving   Matthew 6:14-15
• disciplining/reprimanding   Luke 17:3-6
• praying   Ephesians 6:18-19
• hospitality   Romans 12:13
• respecting parents   Deuteronomy 5:16
• teaching   Colossians 3:16
• peace-making   Matthew 5:9
• sacrificing   Matthew 19:29
Case study 1

Hesitating for a moment, Lisa scans the room for her friends, then makes a beeline towards them. As she manoeuvres through the regular Bible Class crowd, an old shrivelled man reaches out, touches her on the shoulder and says, “Hello Lisa, did you like the talk?” She quickly smiles and replies, “I’m fine,” then zooms off to tell her friends about her new car. Rejected, the lonely man sits down.

Lisa wasn’t listening, she didn’t want to talk to him because he wasn’t particularly interesting and she needed to tell her friends about the car. Was Lisa showing love to her brother? Obviously not. Palming off people because they don’t fit our criteria of friends is wrong. Whether these people are old, young, boring, slow, lepers or irritating, they are sinners just like us who need our love. Imagine if you were that old man, how would you have felt? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)


Case study 2

“Working for this miserly boss is tough. He’s so stingy, he never gives any money when Red Cross comes, he never gives us time off when the kids are sick, he works us hard and long even though he has millions. This week, his stocks plummeted; he stressed out and had a stroke. Now he is in hospital crying poor and back at the office everyone is slacking off. Really, it serves him right. I bet no-one will visit him.”

What is wrong with this picture? Is this employee showing love to his undeserving boss? Clearly no. What could he have done? Be compassionate, visit him and his family, work just as hard for his boss as when he is present, pray for his health and do not participate in laughing at his misfortune. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

4. Read the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

(a) What principle is Jesus teaching here?
(b) The first servant owed millions of dollars to the king. Realistically, would the servant have ever been in the position to repay the debt?
(c) How does this story parallel the relationship between God and us?
(d) Is showing mercy optional?


1. Consider the story of Hosea and Gomer his adulterous wife (Hosea 1:1-11; 3:1-5).

(a) What does the relationship of Hosea and Gomer symbolize?
(b) What is God trying to teach his people by telling Hosea to take back Gomer?
(c) Again and again God pleaded with Israel to repent and love him (e.g. Hosea 14). What does this teach about God’s character. How should this affect our lives?

2. Read John 21:15-19. What Greek words for love are used by Jesus and Peter? [Hint: use a concordance to find out.]
How does this change your understanding of the passage?


• The genius of discipleship by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian, 1984). Chapters 17-18. 10 pages.
• New Testament words by William Barclay (published by SCM Press, 1964). Chapter 1 “Agap´e and agapan”. 14 pages.
• The four loves by C.S. Lewis (published by Geoffrey Bles Ltd, 1960).


10. Worship
22. Pride and humility
29. Forgiving one another
38. Grace
60. Marriage
63. Friends

 
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