35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
The greatest commandment is quite simple to understand but challenging to practice. Many people talk about the importance of this commandment, and many use it to justify their actions. However, loving another is more than, I would posit, accepting another the way they are and being kind. True godly love requires examining our actions and motives as well as the motives and actions of others and tenderly correcting those that are not biblical. That's hard. We could lose friends doing that.
The Greek language of the New Testament uses four different words for love. Eros is used to describe the kind of love men and women have for each other, it includes physical attraction, desire, and longing. Stergos describes mutual love in a family. Philos describes the love we have for our friends. This is the love that we should have for unbelievers that we know and it should encourage us to reach out to them and share the gospel.
The word for love that Jesus uses here is the Greek word agape. It is the highest form of love and refers to the love God has for man and the love man has for God. In my Apply the Word Study Bible, the author writes, "Agape described a supreme love involving a conscious and deliberate choice to do good for another. It is powered by the choice of the one who shows love, not the worthiness of the one who receives it. Agape is best seen in God's love for the world. It is also the love that God calls his followers to display."
This, to me, is what it means to "be the church." Every program, ministry, and mission should be based on whether it helps the church live out agape love. I believe we start off well. We think if we feed the people, we will be showing agape love. However, I think having a food bank, for example, is a good start, but I think for it to be true agape love, we can't stop at feeding them physically, we must feed them spiritually. Agape love wants each person who walks through the door to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Agape love wants them to experience the love of God in their lives.
I think the best way to share that kind of love is not through church programs, but through relationship building. The church must step outside the door and mingle with the people. We can't be satisfied letting programs do the loving, we must love them first. I will be discussing this more in depth in future posts.