THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
In an attempt to test Jesus, a Pharisee questioned Him on which commandment was the greatest.
“…Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Jesus said that the second commandment was like the first, meaning that it is similar in appearance or character. Actively loving and caring for others is only possible when we first truly love the Lord our God. In fact, Christ has given the non-believing world permission to judge the legitimacy of our profession of faith based upon the criteria of the love we demonstrate for one another.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The sobering truth is that if we do not love one another, others have the right to question if we are truly Christ’s disciples! Often when Christians fail to actively love one another and are criticized by those outside of the body of Christ, they charge them with persecution, rather than recognizing that they are merely exercising their God-given right to judge.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The love we are to have for one another is not merely a warm feeling or sincere emotion, but a condition of the heart that is demonstrated in actions toward the ones we love.
Christ is our supreme example of love. His love and tender mercy for others moved Him to go out of His way to minister to their needs, to patiently bear with their weaknesses and, finally, to lay down His life for them.
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
moved with compassion – To feel pity or compassion at seeing the miseries of others, a vehement affection of commiseration by which the bowels and especially the heart is moved. To be moved with pity from the very inmost bowels. (Adam Clarke Commentary)
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
-I John 3:16-17
closes his heart – To shut up or close off your bowels or inward affection and tender mercy.
Our Lord’s heart is filled with love and compassion for others. Therefore, when we shut up or close off our hearts to others, we also close off our heart to Him. The opposite is also true. When we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, He can fill us with His love and compassion for others.
“…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Shortly after Christ rose from the dead, having conquered Satan, sin and death, He manifested Himself to Peter and the other disciples on the shore of Galilee. Knowing that He would soon ascend to the Father, and that the Holy Spirit would descend to accompany, indwell and empower believers to continue His work among man, He shared His greatest concern with Peter.
“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ “He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’ ”
Christ’s concern was for the welfare of the sheep! He impressed upon Peter the truth that caring for others would be a response to genuine love for Him. Of utmost importance to the Lord is that we love Him. He came to this earth, became a man, suffered and bore man’s sin on the cross solely out of love. He desires us to return that love. The primary focus of our lives and the motivation for all that we do must be love for our Lord. When our hearts are filled with love for Christ, He will fill us with His compassion to tend and feed or shepherd and keep others.
Jesus demonstrated discipleship. He went out of His way and took time, He touched people that no one else would touch, He had mercy and gave grace to sinners, exhorting them to “go and sin no more,” He noticed the needs of others and reached out to minister to those needs. Jesus taught the multitudes but He ministered to individuals. When He ascended to heaven, His work among man was not finished. There were still multitudes to be saved from the generations that would follow. It was the Lord’s good will to entrust the continuation of this ministry to His disciples. To fulfill this ministry requires love for Him and compassion for others.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Mature members of the body of Christ are commissioned by Christ to guard, protect, attend to, and take care of the less-mature believers, and disciple them to maturity as a shepherd would his sheep.
Discipleship – A more mature believer leading a less mature believer to a deeper walk with the Lord; setting an example, teaching them how to abide in an intimate relationship with Jesus, and helping them to grow in their understanding and application of biblical truths. Teaching them how to tend to all things God has given to them in accordance to His Word.