- Category: The Gospel Race: Things We Achieve
Theme Text – “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” Matt 22:37-39.
We saw that when we run the gospel race, we prove our faith in God, and fulfill our priestly duty to attain holiness. We also realized how our share in Christ's sufferings for the gospel of the Kingdom gets us a share in his Kingdom glory and authority. We understood that living a life for the gospel is the only way to live a life of doing true goodness to humanity and that even as most of them reject the good news in present times, they would remember it when they resurrect in the Kingdom making it easier for them then. All those things constitute the multi-fold purpose for which God asks us to run the gospel race. Let us look at another important objective of the gospel race here.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied – “Love (Greek: agape) the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love (agape) your neighbor as yourself” Matt 22:37-39.
- Greek has many words for love. Here Matthew uses agape - a value-driven decision-based love.
- Agape is very different from the other popular Greek word for love phileo - a personal affection.
- Phileo is from the heart, the seat of emotions, whereas agape is of the head, the seat of reason.
How did God and Christ demonstrate their agape for us? What was the purpose of their agape?
- God showed his agape by sacrificing His only Son for us -“For God so loved (agape-d) the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.
- Christ showed it thus - “We know what love (agape) is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us 1John 3:16.
Yes, their agape’s purpose was to give Man eternal life, to which end both the Father and Son sacrificed. Shouldn’t our love (agape) have the same purpose?
Jesus said, ‘The Spirit gives life. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life’ John 6:63. Mankind can get life only by hearing God’s Word. Proclaiming that should be our love’s purpose.
The 1st Greatest Commandment – A Labor Prompted by Love
When we receive the gospel of the kingdom, we realize how much God loves us. We start abounding in love (agape) towards Him with all our heart and soul and mind. That love builds a deep conviction to work for His gospel towards mankind.
Paul calls this a labor prompted by love –
‘We remember before God your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with the Spirit and deep conviction...You became imitators of us and of the Lord... you became a model to all the believers. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in Godhas become known everywhere’ 1Thess 1:3-8.
The 2nd Greatest, ‘Love your Enemy!’ & A Shot at Perfection
Love your neighbor as yourself! We need to give mankind the gospel that gives us eternal life! That’s how we fulfill our commandment of love (agape) towards our neighbors, why even our enemies!
The world is indeed an enemy to us (James 4:4). That’s why our Master says - “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matt 10:16-18.
- As agape is a decision-based principled love and not an emotional affection, it’s possible for us to love/agape our enemies by sharing God’s gospel with them. Sure, they would persecute/mock us. But Jesus asks us to rejoice, because when we show our enemies such love, we imitate God’s agape, and thereby attain perfection marching toward eternal life in heaven -
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven... I tell you, love (agape) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous...
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:11-12, 44-48.
- This is how even Jesus attained perfection - “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Heb 5:8-10.
Paul advises, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2Cor 7:1.
How do we purify ourselves? - By seeking forgiveness daily (1John 1:9).
And how do we perfect holiness? - As we studied earlier, our holiness abounds only when we immerse ourselves in more and more gospel work!
Yes, the gospel race helps us fulfill the two greatest commandments of love and makes us perfect!
The New Commandment – Love (Agape) for the Body of Christ
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love (agape) 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” John 13:34-35.
- As a matter of fact, ‘we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters as Christ did for us’ 1John 3:16. But what for? Well, we are to love as Jesus loved. And he loved us to the point of sacrificing his life for us so we may have eternal life. So our love for our brethren should also be to that end.
- As part of our spiritual race, when we build them in the truth, offering our lives as living sacrifices (laying down our lives) to help them in their race, we fulfill the new commandment of agape towards the body of Christ. Sure, we help them in their worldly needs, but our main focus would be to build them up in the truth, and to ensure they run the gospel race for eternal life.
John and Paul say the same - Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth 1John 3:18. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up 1Thess 5:11.
Yes, in the race God marks out for us, competitors win by helping each other. How different is it from worldly races!
Let us dig deeper into more of the things we achieve when we run the gospel race. Read Next: Studying, Fishing & Becoming Christ-like.