“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 12:30-31
To most of us who have grown up in Sunday school, we have come to know the 31st verse as “The Greatest Commandment.” If we are truly men and women after God’s heart, then we know this to be accurate. At the core of God’s holiness is love. What Jesus was really doing by issuing these commands was simply boiling the Ten Commandments down to two. Easy to understand, hard to practice. Evidently the people of his age needed things in their simplest forms, too, much like we do today. Hopefully, we also respond positively to these commands just as the teacher of the law did in this encounter. Hopefully we, too, are “not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus throws in an extra challenge to obeying the Ten Commandments. Notice there is no “thou shalt nots” in Jesus’ commands. Instead, he throws in a word many of us probably dislike a lot of times if we’re really honest with ourselves. What we don’t like about it is what it truly involves. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love, therefore, is the core of everything God does and commands. Take a look. If we would love God with all our hearts we would satisfy the first four commandments. If we would love our neighbors as ourselves, we would be obedient to the final six. We should not only obey the commandments out of fear to God but also out of love for him. There is no soul that is not loveable to God and we should choose to love as well.
If we’re going to be little Christs, we have to love like he did and that means it has to be unconditional and with a servant’s heart. Unconditional love is most likely impossible for most of us to achieve. We can love our children. We can love our family. We can love most of our friends. Most of us, though, draw the line somewhere on who we think we can love. Thankfully, God doesn’t make that choice. He loves those who hate him. Jesus said we are either for him or against him. Because we are all sinners, technically we hated God before we repented and accepted Jesus as our savior. I’m just really thankful that God chose to love me when I dialed him up with my prayer of repentance for salvation. Love is a choice for us but for God it’s as much a part of who he is as our fingerprints are an ingrained identity of ours.
If love is a choice, then how do we obtain it? True love is not a romantic feeling. Learning to love those outside our inner circle is a growth process and the fastest way to grow is by serving. My preacher, Darrel Land, once said, “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy.” If we choose not to care for someone, we might as well tell them we hate them. Renown atheist Penn Jillette once said, “how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that?” If we chose not to serve them with the message of salvation, we’re committing a sin of omission that could populate hell.
If I choose to walk past the homeless person because I don’t care about his well-being, I pretty much show I hate him. If I am not a good Samaritan, then I am showing the injured person I hate them. If I don’t care that someone is going to hell, then I’m displaying the ultimate hate. What better way to show our love to non-believers, and those who may hate us, by serving them? Every soul counts, whether or not they know or love us. Not many people in dire need are unappreciative of humble service. Being a servant shows I passionately care. It shows I’m making a physical effort for someone’s well-being. It shows that I’m willing to inconvenience myself for someone else’s well-being. It opens souls up to the Word. It opens them up to receiving what Christians have in them. Service makes evangelism easier. Jesus came to serve and not be served, so should I!
Service is an important step to populating Heaven, not hell.