WebDef: Love, The Greatest Commandment

Love /lŭv/– Noun: Tender feelings directed outwards.  Historically, the Greeks divided love into: philia (friendship), kinship (storge), passion (eros) and selfless (agape) forms.  

Following is a discussion on biblical references to Love.  Many of us have heard it said that Bible stands for ‘basic instructions before leaving earth.’  If so, the greatest instruction – found throughout its pages – is to love.  The English language is limited by its use of only one word for the many nuances of love, but often deeper meanings are contained in the original scriptures For example, in John 21, where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, Jesus uses different terms for the word love. Jesus asks using the word “agape” (unconditional love) and receives an answer of “phileo” (fraternal love).  He finally steps down his question, to meet Peter where he stands.

Jesus’ greatest commandment is a threefold call to love: God foremost, neighbor, and lastly self [1]: Jesus said, “What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10:26-27).  Jesus is referencing Deut. 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  His Great Commandment, emphasizing love of God first and then our neighbor,  is followed immediately by a parable teaching that being a good neighbor is not limited to one’s own social group.

..So he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. – Luke 10:29-37

Jesus’ choice of Samaritan as the good neighbor must have been shocking at a time when  Samaritans and Jews generally did not get along.  So despised were Samaritans that when Jesus asked ‘who was the true neighbor?’ nobody could even spit out the word Samaritan in answer, saying only “the one who showed mercy.”  Mercy was part of the teaching, but his teaching was deeper than that: love can transcend social boundaries, even extending to love of enemies.

LOVE DEFINED

What does love look like?  And, can the Bible shed light on this subject? Yes, it can. Certainly among the most well-known verses on love is Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 13. In that verse, which reads as pure poetry, Paul counsels that, no matter what we say, believe or do, we’re bankrupt without love. He describes love as patient, kind, trusting, long suffering, not self-aggrandizing or boastful, and no scorekeeper of wrongs. As conveyed in The Message, “love isn’t always ‘me first’”  and as conveyed in the King James Version, the word “charity” is used.

CHARACTERISTICS, AND LOVE IN ACTION 

Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. – 1 Cor. 13

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  – Galatians 5:13

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. – Romans 14:13-15

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP

Love is the mark of discipleship, a sign of God’s indwelling presence.  The practice of loving-kindness draws us closer to God. So central is Jesus’ teaching on Love that whether or not someone is loving can be seen as a signal of abiding in Him:

LOVE AS A MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1 John 3:14-24

(Jesus said) As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. – John 15:9-17

[Jesus said] “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  – John 13:34-35

[Jesus said] He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. – John 14:21-24

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. –1 John 4:7-8

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. –1 John 4:11-1

Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:  To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. – I Thess 3:11-13

VERSES ON NEIGHBORLY/BROTHERLY LOVE

We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. — 1 John 4:19-21

AND LOVE OF ENEMY 

Jesus said  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  — Matthew 5:43-48

Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. – 1 Peter 3:8-12

Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. – James 5:9 

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” — Romans 12:14

ROMANTIC LOVE

The Song of Solomon is an entire book in the Bible dedicated to romantic love.  Here are just two quotes, that will give you a sense of the flavor of this book:

  • Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. – Song of Solomon 1:15-16
  • My beloved spoke, and said unto me, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. – Song of Solomon  2:10-16

OTHER BIBLE QUOTES ON LOVE

  • Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. – Proverbs 10:12
  • A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.  – Proverbs 17:17
  • Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! – Psalm 31:16 NIV
  • Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently – 1 Peter 1:22
  • Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. – Romans 13:8
  • Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. –Philippians 2:2

What are WebDefs?

WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature of NHM Ministrants.  Offered in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest.


[1] Jesus is quoting Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 10:12 in summarizing the whole of the law in this way.

[2] See Jewish commentary including that of Moses Maimonedes.

 

Categories Bible Quotes & Commentary, WebDefs | Tags: , | Posted on November 19, 2012

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