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Revisiting Christ's Greatest Commandment: Love

Revisiting Christ's Greatest Commandment: Love

“How did we get here?” I thought to myself, as I read another stranger’s story, describing how a distorted form of the gospel had been used to inflict wounds of rejection and judgment.

I feel there is no end to the headlines of hatred published by those claiming to be Christian. We only need to look at our phones or watch the news to hear of the countless controversies surrounding the Church, its mission, and its message. Whether it be standing with signs of shame or blaming the broken for their bruises, the message of Christ’s ministry has been completely missed.

I have sat with far too many scared souls, who have experienced hurt at the hands of evangelical extensions. Their stories do not include compassion or care, gentleness or generosity, hope, or healing. In stark contrast, they tell stories of those who have twisted the good news of the Gospel of Christ, wringing it dry of its message of mercy.

How did we get to the place where Christianity has become equated with nothing that resembles Jesus?

How did the pursuit of holiness get exchanged for hatred?

How did the desire for justice turn into judgment?

How did the message of redemption translate into religiosity?

As I look back on history and the many movements that have shifted our stances and segregated our theologies, I cannot help but wonder how the message Jesus so clearly demonstrated and communicated has been misinterpreted and abused.

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  • Love scrabble pieces on a Bible, Loving God with all of your heart

    Bringing it Back to Basics

    In John 13:34, Jesus instructs his disciples saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

    This teaching of love is reiterated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, concerning all other spiritual giftings, Paul writes:

    “And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (12:29-13:1-4).

    And again we read of the Apostle Peter’s words on the importance of this primary element of Christianity saying, “Above all else, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

    What I find both profound and thought-provoking about these passages is that they each encapsulate the very heart of the Gospel in one single attitude of action.

    According to these teachings, love is the greatest commandment of the Church. It is the most excellent way of living out our spirituality, and it is to be acted upon above all other attributes one could possess.

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  • Hands spelling L-O-V-E

    What Kind of Love Is This?

    This love, in its original Greek form, is not passive or prudish but delights in what God prefers and is activated by God’s love alone. Unlike other attributes, this invitation of preferred love is said to be of the highest worth to Christ (1 Corinthians 13:13). The disciples, who first heard this radical commission of Christ, were familiar with the Levitical law of mutual respect (Leviticus 19:18). Yet this revision encapsulated the sacrificial love Christ was about displayed on the cross for all mankind. This love Christ taught was undifferentiated by cultural class or religious rank and was meant to bring together the segregation of humanity (Colossians 1:19). 

    The MacLaren Expositions Of Holy Scripture describes this attitude of action saying, “ [Love] does not cut humanity into two halves, but gathers all diversity into one, and spreads the great reconciling of Christian love over all the antagonisms and oppositions of the earth.”

    Is it not this revolutionary reconciling of segregation that we as believers are to embody?

    Sadly, I feel that our expression of faith has failed to reflect the One whom we say we serve. For if those around us are unable to identify our discipleship, how will they come to know our Savior? This world has begun to reject the sweet message of salvation because we have neglected the central message of Christ’s commission.

    So, let us revisit Christ’s lessons of love and live in light of this new law. 

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  • Group inviting someone in

    Lessons of Love

    This life of love which Christ spoke of is learned. It is sown into our souls by receiving the Holy Spirit’s sensitivity and sincerely seeking to surrender ourselves to our Savior’s service. As we lean into the lessons of love given to us in the gospels, may they reclaim Christ’s name in our culture. 

    1. Love Invites Others into Relationship 

    Have you ever received an invitation? Let me tell you – it is my favorite thing. There is just something special about being invited into spaces. It is this initiation of inclusion that brings souls together.

    One of the overarching characteristics of Christ’s life is seen in His intentionality to invite others to come to Him and receive all that He had to offer.

    In this action of invitation, we see how the love of God acts first (1 John 4:19). It initiates and invites others, both believers and non-believers, into intentional gospel-centered relationships. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus’ invitation is to discipleship. He says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

    Then we read in Matthew 11:28, where Jesus invites those who are weary to find rest, for in a relationship with Him, the burden is lifted and the load is light. We see how Christ calls God’s children to Himself, saying, “Abide in me, and I in you" (John 15:4). This invitation of security is found in Christ’s desire to live within our hearts as we abide in Him.

    So, who is it that needs to be invited into the family of God, or comforted by His rest or secured by His spirit? What does it look like for us to emulate Christ’s character of love in the way of invitation?

    This message of acceptance is for every soul that seeks to find belonging. Christ’s invitation of abundant life (John 10:10) is not exclusive to those who have been raised Baptist or for those who make prayer a regular practice. Rather, it is for all those who simply receive it. 

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  • Senior friends laughing together

    2. Love Invests in the Needs of Others

    What is it that you invest in? For our investments show us what we value. So, the question is, do we value the needs of God’s people?

    Throughout all of Christ’s ministry on earth, we see His consistency in caring for those who were in need. From the feeding of thousands (Matthew 14:13-20) to the countless healings of those who were hurting (Mark 1:29-34), Jesus was focused on meeting the needs of less fortunate and forgotten.

    It says in Matthew 9:36 that, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. It was Christ’s value of compassion that compelled him to action.

    This heart of investment encompasses an attitude of empathy, a mind of understanding, and a desire to relieve other’s suffering.

    This lesson of love is fully described in 1 John 3 which says:

    “By this, we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (verses 16-18).

    This is what love looks like – helping others in need.

    Unlike the Pharisees, whose intention for any investment was to show their spirituality, Christ’s movement of mercy, was soul-centered. His investments were intentional opportunities to extend grace and give generously to satisfy souls.

    What motivates our ministry? Is it spiritual sentiment or sincere servanthood.

    In Matthew 5:16, Jesus reminds His disciples of the value of investment saying, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

    May this be our motivation as we minister to the broken and befriend those who need the hope that we have in our Heavenly Father.

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  • hands reaching out for help

    3. Love Imparts Reconciliation

    I believe one of the most powerful forms of love we can offer the world is that of reconciliation. As we have been learning, Christ’s message was that which rescued the lost, redeemed the unrighteous, and renewed those consumed by shame.

    One well-known example of this lesson of love is found in John 8, where a woman of bad reputation was brought before the people to be stoned. Her brokenness was known and her shame was put on display for those who were ready to cast their stones.

    Yet, Jesus silences the crowd saying, “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

    My dear brothers and sisters, let us set down our stones and surrender to the reality that we all need Christ’s reconciliation. Let us instead begin to act as Christ did on behalf of this woman. May we be advocates for those being conned by a message of condemnation and repent of our human tendency to preach prudence of repentance.

    Christ’s interaction with this woman reflects love in its deepest form. For instead of condemnation, Christ simply says, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (8:10-11). It is this character of kindness that leads to true and lasting repentance (Romans 2:4).

    For the Gospel is incomplete without recognizing the reconciliation we have been given through God’s love in Christ. The Apostle Paul writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10).

    He also reminds us of this message in 2 Corinthians 5:11-20, saying, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

    Church, we have been entrusted with this message of reconciliation! Oh, may we become ambassadors of this truth and extend the ministry of mercy to those who have yet to taste and see that the Lord is truly good (Psalm 34:8).

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  • Group holding hands

    4. Love Inspires Faith in the Face of Failure

    Isn't it interesting how the world feeds off of failure? We don’t have to go far to find the latest failures on display for the world to see. I believe we point fingers and become enraged by the fallenness of humanity far too easily.

    Instead of encouragement, we get aggravated. Instead of support, we become cynical. Instead of respect, we act out of rebellion.

    Love inspires a different response. It ignites agency and provides the support necessary to develop the faith to flourish. One of my favorite stories within the gospels is that of Jesus’ healing at the pool of Bethesda. Here we find a lame man who was said to have been crippled for many years. Although he laid by the pool daily, he was unable to obtain the healing he so desired. Then Jesus enters and asks him a simple question, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6).

    This man had lost his faith to conquer his physical failure and I imagine those around him were not helping the situation. Yet, Jesus’ question inspired this man’s determination to see beyond his limitations. In return, Jesus says, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

    We see similar interactions like these throughout Jesus' life. He empowered the woman at the well, known for her failures. He challenged the rich young ruler’s source of security, and He blessed those willing to place their trust in His healing power.

    This is what our love can do for others too.

    The gospel was never meant to minimize or magnify human failure, but rather to give us a foothold of faith. For this is the type of love that endures. It exhorts and empowers others to live in the freedom of faith and find their hope in heaven’s healing.

    Friend, we may be the only Bible someone will get to read, and according to Christ’s commandment, it is the expression of our love that will draw others to God’s good grace.

    May we never lose sight of these lessons of love. This world needs to be invited into safe spaces, intentionally valued, introduced to God's radical reconciliation, and inspired to claim an unwavering form of faith.

    What if we became a generation that sought to bridge gaps, mend misunderstandings, and seek sincerity in our interactions with our society? I can only imagine what it would look like for us to revisit the revolutionary response of Christ’s redeeming love.

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    Carley Marcouillier: A northerner by heart southerner by choice, Carley currently calls Virginia her home. After completing her Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, Carley began to develop a passion for integrating the principles of counseling practice with the foundation of Christian theology. In addition to her clinical work, Carley is passionate about discussing topics of faith, theology, psychology, and everything in between on her social media platforms www.carleymarcouillier.com, Instagram, and Facebook

    Carley Marcouillier: A northerner by heart southerner by choice, Carley currently calls Virginia her home. After completing her Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, Carley began to develop a passion for integrating the principles of counseling practice with the foundation of Christian theology. In addition to her clinical work, Carley is passionate about discussing topics of faith, theology, psychology, and everything in between on her social media platforms www.carleymarcouillier.com, Instagram, and Facebook

    FREE PODCAST RESOURCE: Are you looking for resources to better understand yourself and grow spiritually? You've come to the right place. Join licensed therapist Carley Marcouillier on the Therapy + Theology Podcast each week as she tackles a common question related to therapy, mental health, and faith. Listen to an episode now by clicking the play button below: