Please read Luke 10:25-28 – Love God and your fellow man.
Seek the help of the Holy Spirit in understanding God's Word.
V25. What must I do to inherit eternal life?
This parable is only found in Luke's gospel. It seems to have happened shortly after Jesus had spoken with the seventy-two about rejoicing that their names are written in heaven. What initiates the dialogue is a question from a lawyer, one whose profession it was to know the Law of God, and the Jewish traditions surrounding it. On first reading of the question, we might think it is a wonderful one – “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Wouldn't it be marvellous if someone we know, whether in our family or at work, were to say to us, 'what do I need to do to get into heaven?' Now there would be an open door that you would want to walk through, and with joy. But this man isn't asking the question because he wants to know the answer; he already knows the answer – it's about what you do. So, why ask the question? Because he is testing Jesus. He wants to hear what Jesus is going to say, probably so that he could challenge him, even possibly to bring a charge against him.
Jesus responds to the question with two questions. They are so straightforward and simple that the Lawyer can't do anything other than answer them. Not to do so would make him look foolish. In the question, "What is written in the Law?" Jesus is saying to the man, 'you're a Lawyer, tell us what the Law says'. How could the man refuse to answer? And by quickly following it up with, "How do you read it?" Jesus invites the man to state what he thinks. In a few simple words, Jesus has removed himself from the spotlight and placed the man under it.
When confronted with a question, Jesus frequently responded with a question. Doing so did two things. It helped to reveal what the other person was really thinking, and it put them in the position of having to think about the implications of their question. It's an approach that would serve us well too. People frequently say things to test us, and we should never feel threatened when they do. Rather we should see it as an opportunity to challenge them about their thinking. A good way to do that is to ask them a question as Jesus often did. Sometimes we are too keen just to give an answer. Sometimes the best answer is a question.
V27. Love God and your fellow man.
The man responds by citing Deuteronomy 6:4,5, and Leviticus 19:18. This tells us that the man knew the Law of God. But more than that, it indicates that he thought about these commands and their importance to eternal life. Now whether he knew this through instruction or by personal deduction doesn't matter; the fact is, he had come to an understanding of the two commandments that lie at the heart of what God requires of man.
I am going to digress and take the opportunity to consider these commands. The first thing to note is that this 'Love' we must have for God and for our neighbour, is not merely an emotional affection; it is the Love of intelligent purpose. In other words, it is Love that doesn't only respond to and reciprocate like feeling. This Love is borne out of, and carried along by, a knowledge and understanding of the one we are to love. This Love is derived from the knowledge that God is the Lord. That Yahweh, 'I am that I am', is the unchanging Covenant Lord who is faithful to his covenant promises and steadfast in his love. It is a Love that finds its genesis in the knowledge that God is the God of power, Omnipotent power. Power, that can and will achieve everything that the covenant promises have decreed. This is the Lord, the God, who is to be loved by all men for who he is.
And what of the extent of that Love? How much are we to be invested in loving the Lord, God, with all our being. We are to Love with our 'all'.
We are to love God with all our heart. The Biblical conception of the heart is that it is the very epicentre of who we are, our being. We are to love God with everything we have in our inner most being. Nothing should occupy this place of love within us more than this love for God.
We are to love God will all our soul. The soul is our life; it is who we are. It is that which gives life to us, that which animates our body. Without our soul, we are but mere flesh and blood. Death tells us that. Our life, our very existence, should be consumed with a pursuit after God. This pursuit is what this intelligent, purposeful Love is.
We are to love God with all our strength. We are to give ourselves to loving God with every sinew and fibre of who we are. We should hold nothing back in our desire to know the Lord God. Nothing should come between us and this pursuit after God, and we should be spent in our doing so. The worship of God should be a refreshing joy to us, but it should also take something out of us. As we give ourselves to declaring our love for God, it should take something from us.
We are to love God with all our mind. We are to love God by knowing who he is as Lord and God. Laziness in the pursuit of this knowledge is not an option. The pursuit of this knowledge should always be with us. Yes, it will take a lifetime, and even then, what will we know; well, we will know more than when we started, but it will be through the process of gaining that knowledge that we will be drawn into this Love more and more.
God desires the entirety of our being, personality, strength, and understanding. No part of us is to be given to loving another as god in our life. The first commandment says it all – "You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3. And, if someone were to dare to ask, 'why not?', the answer is simple, 'why would you, given who God is?'. The owning of this Love for God is not about learning a system of doctrines. It is not about having a particular view of the world. It is about giving oneself, without reservation to a person, a person of unspeakable being, magnitude, power, and majesty. Pure self-interest should drive us to want to know and Love this person.
The citing of Leviticus 19:18 and the requirement to love our neighbour as ourselves is important because it is what God would have us do. This type of Love is no different to how we are to Love God. It is exactly the same intelligent, purposeful Love. That is interesting because it means that we need to know what a Christian is if we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in an intelligent, purposeful way. It also means that we need to know who the unbeliever is in their nature if we are to Love them in an equally intelligent, purposeful way. Intelligent, purposeful Love of an unbeliever means that we will not have the same expectations of them, as we do of those who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can't, for, how can we? They are dead in their trespasses and sins. They live with minds that are marked by darkness, and their wills are geared towards continual rebellion against God. For example, while it is wholly legitimate and necessary to ask the professing Christian why they are not giving themselves to the daily private worship of God, and the weekly public worship of God, one cannot ask the same of the unregenerate heart. That, of course, does not mean that we should not seek to encourage the unconverted to join with us in the public worship of God, that they might hear the truth of the gospel, and by the power of God, be born again.
So, what is different in terms of how we are to Love our neighbour as opposed to how we are to Love God? Well, it is the difference of the degree to which this Love is to be given. In respect of God, nothing less than 'all' is acceptable, but with man, this Love is to a level commensurate with how we love ourselves. All we have to do is gauge the scale of our self-love and then attribute it to others, since we are to love others 'as' we love ourselves. Few of us are in danger of loving others more than we love ourselves.
Tomorrow we will see how Jesus responds to the man and how the conversation unfolds.