Ask me how to sum up my duty as a Christian in one word. Go ahead, I dare you. All right here it is. Love. That’s it. All of Christianity, our duty to God, our duty to one another, our duty to ourselves – everything we are called to do and who we are called to be can be summed up in that one word – love. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of details contained in that blanket statement. But if I were pressed to sum up how to be pleasing to God, how to treat my fellow man, and how to develop myself as a person it would have to be with the word “love.”
But please know that this isn’t just my opinion. Everything we read throughout the New Testament bears out that Christianity is all about love. Let me illustrate. In Romans 13 Paul talked some about Christian duty. He spent the first few verses talking about our duty to civil government (vs. 1-7), but then we continued that thought by extending our duty to others as well. Notice what he said, his words not mine:
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (vs. 8-10).
Paul’s point here was that when we generally learn to love one another then God’s specific laws for how to treat one another will come naturally to us. When we love one another we’re not tempted to commit adultery because we know how it will hurt everyone involved. When we love one another we’re not going to murder anyone – it’s hard to murder someone you love. When we love another we’re not going to steal, covet, or do anything else that has the potential to hurt anyone because we love them. Sin is the antithesis of love, so when we learn to love treating one another according to God’s law becomes second nature.
The same is true, not just in our relationship with one another, in our relationship with God. Think of at least a couple of passages that emphasize a love for God as the one thing we’ve got to have and how when we get it then everything else comes naturally.
First, we’ve got the conversation Jesus had with a Pharisee lawyer: “And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus’ point was that everything we are called to do as people of God is first dependent on our ability to learn to love God and our fellow man. When we learn to love everything else will follow. When we learn to love God we accept and don’t question what He says about the church, salvation, worship, morality, evangelism, Christian duty, etc. When we learn to love God that’s it – everything else will follow.
Second, is a statement Jesus made to His disciples the evening of His betrayal in John 14 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (vs. 15). That’s a pretty simple, matter of fact statement; but it’s also most definitely true. Our willingness to obey God ultimately flows out of a heart that has first learned to love Him. So when we learn to love Him we don’t question His commands or His expectations. Instead, our love for Him leads us to simply submit because we trust Him and we want to please Him. When we learn to love God that’s it – everything else will follow.
Saying that love is a part of Christianity just doesn’t cut it. Even saying that love is a large part of Christianity doesn’t cut it. As far as Jesus was concerned love isn’t just a part of Christianity, it is it. When we learn to love God and we learn to love our fellow man that’s it – everything else will follow.