Love Really is the Highest Value

What it means to live, think and act the way Jesus did.

Commentary January 7, 2023

07 January 2023|St. Albans, England [Llewelyn Edwards with tedNEWS]

Following the new year interview with Daniel Duda about the strategic focus of the Trans-European Division, and how we ‘Extend God’s Love to the whole person’, this focus is further developed by Llewelyn Edwards who explains what it means to live, think and act the way Jesus did. Sharing five essential ingredients that define how Jesus loved, to get the most from what he shares, it is worth having a bible readily accessible for reference.

Love the Highest Value

It isn’t rocket science to work out the top-placed value. It is love – simply because ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). (1) You could say, ‘Love rules!’

But this also makes love the most difficult value to aspire to – it has a perfect model to emulate. All other values or fruits of the Spirit are relative. How much joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are you supposed to have? Answer: as much as you can. But love that is any less than the perfect Father-type love isn’t love.

The difficult part is understanding what love looks like or means.

We glibly read that God ‘so loved the world’. But does that include drug pushers, alcoholics, the homeless, the LGBTQ community, cross-dressers, child abusers, terrorists, zealots, prostitutes, tax collectors and other people we might be prone to regard as detestable sinners? Strong’s Concordance, in its definition of the Bible word ‘sinners’, provides associated words to help the reader grasp its meaning. It includes words like depraved and detestable. The revulsion that can arise within us towards those whom we might class as ‘detestable sinners’ could influence how we define and understand the love that is to be valued. Passages such as Psalm 139:21, 22 may give a twist to the meaning of ‘love’ which many might find uncomfortable.

In His sermon on the values of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus seeks to counter a misguided understanding of what love is. It is not, He says, love towards your friends and hatred to your enemies; nor is it love towards those who love you, or even the love shared within the family; as He says, even the tax collectors (Matt. 5:46) and Gentiles (vs. 47) do the same. Rather, it is to love the way the Father loves – indiscriminately (vs. 45).

The passage reads: ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48.)

The mountainside overlooking Galilee where Jesus is throught to have delivered his sermon (or many sermons) about His kingdom.

These verses bring this section of the Sermon on the Mount to a climax. They call the believer to value the standards or characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let’s now explore some of the ingredients that need to be understood as we progress to Jesus’ definition of love.

Read Matthew 5:3-12.

Firstly, this love requires repentance.

According to Matthew 4:17, ‘From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’

When Jesus called His disciples, He did not simply tell them that being generally nice, and kind is what love is. Nor did He suggest that the odd general adjustment of their lives and values so as to be in sync with the values of the Kingdom was what they needed. His message was, ‘Repent’ – turn around full circle because you are going the wrong way! Jesus is speaking to God-fearers! And to them He says, ‘God’s way is in contrast to all you know or think or have been taught! Repent!’

In the sermon He underlines a radical reversal of their understanding of love by saying that ‘love’ is not the way they have been taught – ‘You have heard that it was said . . .but. . ..’ See Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44, KJV.

Secondly, this love requires courage.

The benefits of being a citizen of that kingdom are included in the Beatitudes – we will be comforted, receive the earth, be satisfied, receive mercy, see God and be called sons of God. These are all part and parcel of receiving the Kingdom of Heaven. But we must be careful not to forget that the rewards are also virtues, and that they come at the cost of persecution! In other words, if you want to ‘be sons of your Father who is in heaven’ (vs. 45), courage will be necessary.

Does it not take courage at times to walk across the street or room to express love to someone despised by the rest of the group? This love, it seems, may require the courage to act contrary to the prevailing expectations or norms of the culture we find ourselves in (‘You have heard that it was said . . .’).

As you try to embed the Father’s kind of love into your lifestyle, prayers for courage, rather than deliverance from difficult situations, may be the order of your day.

Read Matthew 5:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Thirdly, this love requires fulfilment.

When meeting the argument, which Jesus ran into many times (Mark 3:1-6 and John 9:16), that caring for people with love and compassion acts contrary to the Law, He countered by pointing out that rather than negating the Law, the values of the Kingdom, rightly lived, fill the Law full of meaning.

The Father’s love is not merely a matter of outward appearances – like that of the scribes and Pharisees – who exhibited their religion by saying and doing all the right things but with a critical attitude towards others that was not helpful. Instead of this, the Father’s love fulfils the Law at a deeper level – inside our hearts (Matt. 5:20) – at the only place we really become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The challenge is to ask yourself the question: ‘How full is my life of this kind of love?’

Read Matthew 5:23-45.

Fourthly, this love requires a form of aggression or assertiveness.

In the sermon (Matthew 5:23-45) there are several examples of the way the Father’s kind of love operates. When you read these verses through, you encounter tough, brave, rugged, ‘turn-your cheek’, assertive love. It is not just love when it suits us or to those we like or love, or who reciprocate. It is not soft, submissive, doormat love . . . it is principled love. It is the kind that says resolutely: ‘You seek to crush me with your oppression and humiliation, but I will fight you with love!’ This love is proactive – assertive.

Someone might argue that if we treat those who wish to harm us well – even while they are intent on doing evil (vs. 39) – we are in danger of showing complicity while permitting them to do their evil.

No! This love combats the evil, for it is precisely by loving them that we overcome those ‘depraved’ and ‘detestable’ sinners.

What if two men or two women or a pair of crossdressers or transgender people walked into church holding hands and then sat in church with their arms around each other – would that modify your ‘love’?

Would you want to straighten them out before showing them the depth of the Father’s love?

No! We combat the wrong not by straightening them out, but by loving them!

Doesn’t God’s love come to us that way – even ‘while we were still sinners’ (Rom. 5:8) and ‘while we were enemies’ (Rom. 5:10)?

Loving the Drug Addict
Would you want to straighten them out before showing them the depth of the Father’s love?

Read Matthew 5:43-48.

Fifthly, this love is excessive. In this passage, take note of how Jesus expands on the theme of letting your love ‘exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees’.

Here Jesus challenges us to love better than ‘those who love you’, better than the ‘tax collectors do’, better than ‘your brothers’ do and better than ‘the Gentiles do’. The model held up to us is the perfect love of ‘your heavenly Father’.

How does He love? Indiscriminately: ‘For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’ Yes, indiscriminately and excessively – like the woman who throws a party for a lost coin wherein the party cost more than the coin was worth! Like the father who runs out to meet his prodigal son and then kills not just an ordinary calf, but the fatted calf for him; or the shepherd who throws a party for a lost sheep he has found – ever heard of a shepherd doing that?

Here is the challenge to be creative – to think outside the box – to practise abundant, wasteful, indiscriminate, excessive love!

I learned of a lady in one of our churches who befriended a young woman who had begun attending services but could only afford to come in jeans and work clothes – it was all she had. The lady befriended the young woman and arranged to meet her in the local mall one day, where she took her to a store and invited her to choose any clothes she wanted so she could dress beautifully for church. When this was done they went to the cashier, where the lady kindly paid for it all! That’s the Father’s kind of excessive love.

 

  1. Except where otherwise Indicated, all Scripture quotations are drawn from the English Standard Version.

Photos: Shutterstock

‘Love – the highest value’, reproduced with the kind permission of the author, is an extract from Values-led Lives, available for purchase from the Stanborough Press @ £5.95 + p&p through their on-line retail outlet LifeSource Christian Bookshop:

https://lifesourcebookshop.co.uk/product/values-led-lives/

If you missed the new year interview with Daniel Duda about the strategic focus of the Trans-European Division, and how we ‘Extend God’s Love to the whole person’, it can be viewed here: 

 

 

 

 

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