If there is any ambition in life that might rise above any other ambition as being the greatest one we could hold, I would say that being a person of love would be the highest. In the Bible we are given as the greatest commandment that of love. It comes in two passages.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Jesus called this the greatest commandment. He said there was a second commandment like it. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 18:19). So, how are we commanded to love God and others? With all of our heart, mind, and strength. This encompasses the whole person in every thought, feeling, and action. But there is a problem with these commandments. Perhaps you’ve never thought in terms of there being a problem with these commands, but there is. And it’s a significant one that we often miss because we think of these as the greatest. Look carefully at Deuteronomy 6:5. “You shall Love the Lord your God with all YOUR heart, and all YOUR mind, and all YOUR strength.” Perhaps you’ve noticed it by now. The emphasis is on loving from within ourselves. But we have a problem with ourselves, namely, ourselves. The standard of behavior for this passage is us. What does the Bible say about our hearts, mind, and strength? Take a look.
Regarding our hearts, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are “Deceitfully wicked above all else, who can know it?” Our minds are equally corrupt. “The mind set on the flesh is death” (Romans 8:6). Even our strength is a problem. “My strength fails because of my iniquity” (Psalm 31:10). The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22 that our whole self is corrupt. Now, with this in mind go back and quote Deuteronomy 6:5. “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your wicked heart, with all your deathly mind, and with all of your sinful strength.” That doesn’t sound too good, does it?
But there is another commandment about love that we often forget that gives us a hope that our love for God and others can be something more pure. It’s found in John 13:34. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you, love one another as I have loved you.”
Now, to be honest, most of us gloss over that passage thinking that it’s essentially the same as Leviticus 18:19 about loving your neighbor as yourself. But, in fact, its very different. Leviticus 18:19 has “us” as the standard of behavior. But look carefully at John 13:34. The standard is Jesus. “Love one another as “I” [Jesus] have loved you.” This is why this commandment was new. The Jews had never heard this before. The standard of behavior was Jesus.
Taking this to the next level we should ask the question, “If we are made in the image of God and are designed to be like Jesus, then what does that love for God look like? How did God love us?” He loved us with all of his heart, his mind, and his strength. Consider: He loved us with his heart. In I Corinthians 5 we are told that God has reconciled us to himself through his son. That word, “Reconciled” in Greek is a purely financial term. It’s literal meaning is, “An exchange of equal value.” Did you catch that? God values you and I at no greater or less value than he values his own sinless son. That is staggering. God values us as if we are of equal value to his son.
He also loves us with his mind. For those who are in Christ, God’s thoughts toward us are always good and always of peace. Because of Jesus’ death for us on the cross and his resurrection, God holds no sin against us. He is at peace with us.
He also loves us with all of his strength. Nothing best illustrates this than Jesus pouring out all of his strength on the cross for our sins. There is no greater expression of God’s love toward us.
Boiling this all down to a practical level, I have made the decision that I want to be a man of love. I’ve known a few people in my life of whom I could say, “That’s a person of love.” It is a rare thing. I’m not there yet, but I want to get there. I want to be a man of love.
If we want to truly be people of love, then there are three things we need to see that accomplished in our lives. First, we need to have the heart of God. Second, we need to have the mind of God. And third, we need to have the strength of God. In fact, if you are a Christian, you already have all three of these things at your disposal. You have God’s heart. Psalm 73:26 tells us that, “God is the strength of my heart.” The Lord can occupy our innermost emotions and their expression.
We already have God’s mind. Paul said in I Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.” Imagine the weight of this. We can, as someone has once said, think God’s thoughts after him. We don’t have to wonder what God thinks about something. Through his Holy Spirit inside of us we can known immediately what God thinks.
We also have God’s strength. Remember that famous passage in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” A better translation might be, “I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Consider what Jesus endured for our sakes when he was crucified for us. If such a horrible thing was endured by Jesus for us, and Jesus promised that we would be able to do even greater things (John 14:12), then imagine what we could endure for his sake. Perhaps you’ve never thought of John 14:12 that way before. Most people think of it in terms of the miraculous. Jesus did great miracles and if we have enough faith we will do greater miracles than he did. But who says that passage refers to the miraculous? Does it not equally apply to his suffering and love? And how much love do you want in your life? Love is pale without suffering.
What kind of person do you want to be? I want to be a person of love. And God has already given us everything we need to become just that.