It’s become quite popular for religious folks to declare they don’t like religion but that they are instead “spiritual”. It’s also become fashionable in that same spirit to state, ” I just love God with all my heart and love my neighbour as myself”. You do? Really??
These words are Jesus’ reply to a teacher of the law, who asked the Messiah, “What is the greatest commandment?”
Jesus answered “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 neighbour as yourself”. “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40)
All kinds of folks today are quoting these verses as if they are the basics of the gospel. One denomination in Australia even has it as their slogan (with the addition of loving “life”. Jesus apparently forgot to add that one)
For those who wish to make this the new “spiritual” gospel, are you sure you have thought this through?
To adopt these commands as the basis of our relationship with God means we must love Him with complete, unfailing love…all the time…under every circumstance… for our entire lives. We must never have wavered in our devotion. We must have completely resisted every temptation. We must have always walked in perfect worship. Never resisted the Holy Spirit. Have had every motive and goal in perfect alignment with His word. And then to have consistently put others needs before our own. To always seek the best for the other even at great personal cost. And to do that not on occassion, but at every moment, of every day, for our entire sojourn on this planet.
It becomes obvious that these words of the Lord are not a declaration of how to be reconciled to Creator God but are a summary of the Law.
The first four of the ten commandments were all about loving God. The next six all about how to love our fellow-man. In other words the instruction to love God and people perfectly is not a nice, liberating, non religious way to “do” Christianity. It is a reminder of how helpless and hopeless we are in the sight of God without the cross.
Does anyone really want God to judge them on their fulfillment of these two commandments? If they do, they are doomed to a certain and fearful end.
For no one loves God with ALL their heart soul, mind and strength. And no one loves their neighbour as they love themselves. What sounds at first hearing as so nice and gracious and spiritual, is in fact a sentence of doom to every human who has ever lived…except One of course; Christ Jesus. This is the very reason why the gospel is good news and the law without the cross is bad news. Jesus perfect fulfillment of loving the Father and loving humanity made His sacrifice on behalf of we who are crippled by our lack of love, so perfect and so necessary.
He died in our place as a perfect act of love to redeem us who have lived our entire lives in selfishness toward our fellow humans and in rebellion towards our Creator.
So, as for me, I’ll rest in what Christ has done at the cross. I’ll trust in His ability to love and to forgive my imperfect love toward God and man. I’ll trust in His word and His redeeming power and the grace He distributes through His gift of faith in Him and His written truth.
I never want to rely on my power to love. I rely on His power to love.
For sure I want to grow in love. I want to be more faithful to Him who rescued me. I want to be more sensitive to people and more importantly more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s not that I don’t desire to love God wholeheartedly and people more perfectly. It’s just that I don’t want to rely on my frail and faulty love when I can instead rely on His pure, powerful and unpolluted love.
So friend next time you here someone sanctimoniously declare that they aren’t religious, they just love God and love people, lovingly remind them of the consequences of relying on the law to be reconciled to God. And point them to Christ on a cross, our perfect Redeemer, Ransom and Risen Regent.
Father we who are born from above love in some measure as a fruit of Your infinite love toward us. We love because You first loved us. Thank You for providing redemption for our absence of love, and not judging according to our lack but by His fullness. Grant us the ability to accurately communicte this glorious message of grace through Christ for His sake