The Greatest Commandment
"35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
It’s easy for me to forget how simplified (not simple in practice, but simplified in concept) God’s commandments are in practicality and application. It may come as a surprise that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) isn’t the greatest commission. Or, if it is the greatest commission in the New Testament, it is only so while characterizing the two most important heart issues discussed in the Bible. Loving God and loving people. But we can so often put emphasis on the Great Commission as an end-all utmost vitality, and in turn dismiss the overarching call to love God and people. We may become so hyper-focused on the call to make Christians that we completely forget how to simply love a person with no alternative agenda. Perhaps we never learned how to.
You may be asking yourself why I would write a lesson in a series called “Lifestyle Evangelism” by saying the great commission isn’t the greatest commission, but it’s evident by Jesus’ example to us in the life he lived that there’s an even more pressing need for his disciples than making other disciples. If we spend all our days meeting people, studying the Bible with them, and baptizing them, but don't love God more than anything or anyone, and don't love people unconditionally and unreasonably, then we may still be missing the point of the Gospel. In my own life, loving people unconditionally is sometimes like trying to swim upstream a white river, or trying to force a square block into a circular mold. Loving people is of greatest concern for Jesus, but it's sometimes of last concern for me. Quite shamefully, I sometimes get so laser focused on making Christians that I only love those that I decide might become a Christian. How faithless! Jesus is a constant reminder for me that I should love everyone, unconditionally, often with no "return on investment". Loving people should be our joy and crown just as it was for Jesus. If we become loving people instead of people who try to love, our lifestyle of love is organic and true instead of a forced habit that never gets easier.
What is the evangelism without love? Actually, one can’t come without the other. It’s a contradiction to evangelize without love, but loving as Christ calls us to is always evangelism.
"35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Luke 6:35 "9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Romans 12:9 "10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10 "13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13 "8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8
Love is everything. Living a life of Lordship to Christ without loving him is a chore that will always be difficult and draining. Likewise, attempting to make disciples without making a lifestyle of loving people unconditionally and intentionally will forever seem like a fleeting task done purely from obedience to Christ instead of from the joy that it is to serve him.