“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.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’ ” (Matthew 22:37–40).
IF WE LOVE BOTH GOD AND OTHER PEOPLE AS WE SHOULD, EVERY OTHER DUTY WILL FLOW FROM OUR HEARTS VERY NATURALLY. “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said. Paul expressed this truth by saying that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). It is not that love is our only obligation; it is that we will be happy to fulfill the other aspects of God’s law if we first love Him and then love other people also. Love is the fountainhead from which all good obedience flows.
This primary importance of love is often acknowledged, but it is not as often recognized that the love of which Jesus spoke is something we decide as well as something we feel. As M. Scott Peck wrote, “Love is an action, an activity. It is not a feeling.” We will not find the whole of God’s law being fulfilled in us until we quit waiting for the arrival of loving feelings and start deciding to act in ways that are consistent with love. Not only that, but we must allow God’s word to dictate what is and is not consistent with love. Our intuitions as to what would be a loving thing to do are somewhat prone to error. We must allow God to define what love is and what it should do in various circumstances. As any parent knows who has ever had to discipline children, one can’t always tell what love’s duty is by simply taking a vote.
Yet properly defined and consistently carried out, love is the most potent force available to the human heart. If we truly wish to seek God, it is an absolute necessity. Without love, our efforts are doomed to failure. As the Russian writer Turgenev said, “Love produces a certain flowering of the whole personality that nothing else can achieve.” So if we find ourselves failing consistently to obey God and to enjoy the good things that come from obedience, then it’s time to stop trimming the leaves of the tree and strike at the taproot of the problem. It’s only when we learn the primary law of love that the other laws begin to make sense.
“In the triangle of love between ourselves, God, and other people, is found the secret of existence, and the best foretaste, I suspect, that we can have on earth of what heaven will probably be like” (Samuel M. Shoemaker).