How do you relate to the double love commandment? What kind of feelings does it arouse in you?
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 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.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40, NRSV)
As a teenager, I love the double love commandment. It was quite an inspiring code of conduct. I thought it was wonderful Jesus had instructed us how to live our lives. But as a young person, I did not understand how difficult it would be to live it out. As an idealistic teen, I assumed I’d be able to follow Jesus’ commandment.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still in love with God, most likely much deeper than when I was young because I have personally experienced God’s healing grace, disarming love and endless care all along.
Living out the double love commandment is difficult
But I’ve realized how difficult living out the double love commandment is. First of all, Jesus’ view on love is very holistic: we are to love with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our mind. Second of all, my own limitations have come way too familiar to me. I am not able to love God more than anything and my neighbor as myself. Even though I would like to do so.
That’s why this is not only an exciting Bible passage but the double love commandment that show clearly to us that we can’t fill the law of God as the double love commandment fulfilled the whole law. The older we get to live, the cleared this text shows our inability to love. It is like a mirror that does not lie. A mirror that reflects the ugliness of our degeneration. A mirror that reveals the whole picture of our inability to love.
Fortunately, this is not all. The double love commandment brings clearly out also the gospel. The good news is God’s love is not dependant on how well we are capable of living out the double love commandment.
God loves us in any case, without reservation, and without limit. So much more than we can ever imagine. There’s nothing we could do that God would love us more. And there’s nothing we could do that God would love us less.
The double love commandment is an invitation to communion
Both parts of the double love commandment exist separately already in the Old Testament but Jesus connected them in a new way. Jesus is the connection. His death and resurrection, Jesus makes it possible for communion between men and God and also among men.
The double love commandment calls un into communion. First with God and then with others and precisely in this order. Only when our connection with God is corrected, we are able to love others.
Faith is grace from the beginning to the end
The purpose of the law is to guide us to the cross because only Jesus can make us right with God (righteous). From the cross, we also receive aid for our inability to love. First, we can be healed and made whole ourselves. And only then the Holy Spirit sends us to love others. But not by our own strength this time but by God’s grace and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Faith is grace from the beginning to the end. It is grace in the beginning, it is grace in the middle, and it is grace at the end. God provides us grace upon grace. Just as God provides us everything for our salvation, he provides everything for life as well. So God’s grace is also something else than the vehicle of salvation. With the words of Paul, it is “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead…” (Eph.1:19-20, NIV).
This very same resurrection power is offered to us in the midst of our everyday life. When we lean on God’s power, and not on our own power, we are able to love our neighbors, coworkers, our relatives. Even the most difficult ones. Then it’s not us who love but Christ in us who loves through us.
Let’s live out God’s grace
Why do we then so often relapse on trusting ourselves and not on God? And why do we insist on managing on our own even though we know we can’t? Especially because God provides plenty of love and grace for us. Why do we keep on going with our own resources when in Jesus we have everything we ever need?
Why don’t we stop this law-keeping way of managing on our own and receive daily God’s grace for empowerment? How about going to God the first thing in the morning to ask for grace for our tasks and encounters? And how about stopping to pretend that we only need a tiny bit of grace and otherwise we could manage on our won? Like we could use God’s grace up or we would be ashamed of receiving God’s help.
How about if we would instead ask for grace in abundance? That’s not selfish even though so many think so. Then we will certainly first be healed and pampered. But then there will still be plenty left for others. It will overflow to others without noticing it. Then it will reach our neighbors, coworkers and loved ones.
If every believer would do so, we would experience a revolution of love. Then we could dump the bad we’ve experienced at the foot of the cross and we could instead pass on the good we received. Then we will be rooted and grounded in love, then the message of Christ is so established in us that we do not lack any spiritual gift.
And then all would recognize you as followers of Christ because we would love God with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our mind and our neighbors as ourselves. Not by our own strength but specifically by the power of God’s grace.
Love is God’s power
Relationships are complicated, even the best ones. Alone we can’t do it but with God it is possible. God’s love produces love in us. Then we don’t love because we have to or because we want to earn God’s favor but we love because God has first loved us.
Over the years I’ve learned to ask for more love. And it is literally amazing how we get more of it and how it affects our relationships. For a long time, I wondered how it is possible. Then I figured it is because God is love and then he comes himself in the midst of us as love and by doing so enables transformation.
Love is not a feeling but a strong power of God. So don’t wait for a strong feeling so you’d be able to love. Instead, just love and live in it. But if you don’t even want to love, ask God for the desire to love. And then ask for power to do it. Then do it by the grace of God.
The connection with God makes us flourish
We are called to live our lives with a close connection with God: to tell him our joys and sorrows, our frustrations and dreams. To listen to what our Heavenly Father has in mind for today. Soon we realize this kind of close connection makes us flourish. When we abide in the vine, we feel the grace running through our veins.
And this is the best life. We can walk with spring in our step and joy in our hearts no matter what because our joy is not based on conditions but on Jesus Christ. We don’t have to force ourselves to do good works or practice religion for the sake of religion but we can live freely as children of God and then, as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can love God above else and our neighbors as ourselves.
In grace we have everything
Nobody becomes a master in faith or love, we will always be beggars of grace because we experience spiritual amnesia every night. That’s why we need to start to believe anew every morning. Otherwise, our inner pharisee takes the throne of our hearts and we start relying on our own strength to execute faith, love, and life. And that does not lead to Life.
But in grace, there is everything we need to become Christ-like. In grace there is everything we need to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our mind and our neighbors as ourselves. In grace we have everything.
This was my sermon on “The Double Love Commandment” this past Sunday and I thought I’d share it with you too. I know it’s way longer than my usual posts but I hope this nonetheless blessed you. I’d be interested in knowing what part of this touched your heart? Be abundantly blessed, my fellow pilgrim. You are loved.