This is our second Sunday not being able to meet together in person. Many of us have made significant changes in how we interact in our community. Maybe social distancing has made us aware of how important relationships are. Perhaps all of these changes have reminded us of how much the assembly of Christians together means to us. As we make our way through this time of uncertainty, there are some things that are certain and one of those is the character of the love that God has for us.
THE LIMITLESS LOVE OF GOD FOR US (Romans 5,8)
It is Causeless. Romans 5:6 says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” God does not love us because of anything we have done or not done. Nothing about you caused God to love you. Helpless, sinful, needy, and dependent – we didn’t inspire God’s love, He simply chose to love us in spite of us.
It is Measureless. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How can we measure the love of God? We can see the price He paid to love us. He gave his only son. That is an immeasurable depth to love. We can never know how great that love is – we can only accept it or reject it.
It is Ceaseless. Romans 5:10 says, “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” We are saved by the resurrected Jesus Christ – and that fact does not change. If we could be saved as sinners, then we will remain saved as believers.
Ultimately, nothing can separate us from His Love, as affirmed so clearly in Romans 8:35-39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are secure in the Lord’s unconditional love; since we belong to to Christ, nothing we do can cause God to love us more, and nothing we do can cause God to love us less.
LOVING THE GOD WHO HAS SUCH GREAT LOVE FOR US
How do we respond to such love? Jesus expressed the familiar greatest commands in Mark 12:28-34:
One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
Love God With Everything You Have! Loving God completely involves our whole personality – our intellect, emotion, and will. We do express our love for God when we assemble and praise together. The love that God desires is not weekly, but a part of our every day life. We are called to love God day after day. Two essentials to loving God:
Time – Spend time getting to know God, learning more and more from his word. Time might be more available now – put it to good use! As we grow in our love for God, it changes us!
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
“When we discover that the personal Author of time, space, matter, and energy has, for some incomprehensible reason, chosen to love us to the point of infinite sacrifice, we begin to embrace the unconditional security we longed for all our lives.” (Boa)
Obedience – When we respond to His love we become the people he has called us to be. When he asks us to avoid something, it is because he knows that it is not in our best interest. When he asks us to do something, it is always because it will lead to a greater good.
John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
“Our great task in the spiritual life is to will to do his will, to love the things he loves, and to choose the things he sets before us for our good.” (Boa) When we realize the limitless love of God, and how that love calls us to love Him, we also realize that God’s love calls us to love others.
LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR AS GOD HAS TAUGHT US.
There is no act that begins with the love of God that does not end with the love of neighbor.
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35
Now this is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he commanded us.1 John 3:23
The sphere of this new commandment is universal. It extends first to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and beyond this to our neighbors in this world who do not know Jesus.
Loving our Neighbor in a Pandemic Context
The more we love God, the more we will express his love through deeds of kindness and goodness. We may be limited at this time in what we can do if we are quarantined and if we are not to infect others, but we should be doing what we can do.
Whatever you find to do in order to love others, realize that you are following in the footsteps of Jesus – our ultimate example.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45
The more we take pleasure in loving and serving God, the greater our capacity to take pleasure in loving and serving our neighbors.
God loves us with a limitless love. To know God is to love him, because the more we grasp – not merely in our minds but also in our experience – who he is and what he has done for us, the more our hearts will respond in love and gratitude. There is no act that begins with the love of God that does not end with the love of neighbor.
“Thanks be to thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which thou hast given us; for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may we know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly; for thine own sake.” – St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)
1. If you were having a debate today in church about what the greatest command was – and you couldn’t use the answer of Jesus – what do you think people consider the greatest command today?
2. When Jesus offers Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as the greatest command, how do you think that resonated with the scribes? How does it resonate with you – how would you re-write it in your own words? What’s the most challenging aspect of the greatest command?
3. The second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself. Who do you consider your ‘neighbor’? Some view this as a command to love ourselves so that we have a baseline to love others. What do you think about that? What would change about my life if I loved my neighbor as myself?
4. The scribe responded that to follow these two commands was “far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” What are the most important things to you in your religious life? How do they fit under the umbrella of the two greatest commands? How does this statement affect the way we judge the religious acts of others?
5. What do you think Jesus meant when he said to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”? What stood between him and the Kingdom of God? What are some ways this scribe seems of a different spirit than the other scribes we read about in the NT? What does this teach us about being watchful for seekers?
6. Verses 88-44 contrast two types of religious people. The Scribes were outwardly religious (attire, honor, long prayers, making a show of their offerings) but behind the scenes they are cruel to widows and will receive harsh judgment. The Widow was outwardly impoverished and could only give very little. Jesus said the widow has put more into the treasury than all the others because she gave what she had to live on.
– In what way is Jesus speaking out against outward religious acts?
– Discuss how this section addresses the way we view honor – a desire to be recognized.
– How does this section address our giving to the church?
– How does this section address the two greatest commands?
Boa, Kenneth. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. Zondervan, 2001.