Loving God and Man

By Randy Harshbarger

Why do you serve the Lord? What motivates you in your service to the Master? Do you serve out of fear? Do you feel compelled to “do all the right things” because you feel guilty if you refuse? Do you wonder how can you move beyond a “having to mentality” and acquire the right attitude and motivation in your service to God? John said: “There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:18). Fear is used in at least two ways. One, all Christians are to fear God (i.e., we are to reverence, honor, and praise him). As children of God, we seek to please our heavenly Father. But, we do not serve God out of terror or dread. Yes, we need to take seriously the potential of sin as we contemplate the judgment. Yet, our confidence in the Lord eliminates the spirit of slavish dread. Mature love casts that kind of fear away. Now the question is, how can we have that kind of love?

Again John said: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God” (1 Jn. 4:7). Love finds its origin in God and we, his people, must love in return. Love is tied to being born again. Love so vividly describes what a Christian is all about, that it constitutes proof of one’s obedience and devotion to the Lord. Paul said: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22). Love is that leading principle of the heart that springs from knowing that God loves us; we then, love others (1 Jn. 4:18). Paul exemplified this in his desire to preach. He told the Romans (1:14-16) that he was ready to preach the gospel to them. He was in debt to God and therefore felt keenly his debt to others. To preach was his privilege, but it also was his passion!

Jesus spoke about the importance of love. “But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, trying him: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets” (Matt. 22:34-40). It is interesting that this episode took place during the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. He was under constant attack from the Pharisees and Sadducees, yet, he still spoke about love, the basis for all we do and say. The Jews tried to set aside some of the laws of Moses. They also believed that if a man kept one law perfectly that his obedience would be accepted as obedience to all the laws. But, which law was the most important one to keep?

Jesus said that man should love God with all his heart, soul, and mind. That is, the entirety of one’s being must be wrapped up in loving God. Man’s affections and desires must be fixed on God. The intellectual powers one possesses must be utilized in loving God. The best man has to offer must be used to honor and promote the glory and honor of God. Love sums it all up!

There seems to be an allusion to the Ten Commandments in this section of Matthew, but, how does love sum up one’s duty to God and relate to the Old Law? When a man loves God with all his heart, soul, and mind, he does not have to choose as to whether he will or will not take God’s name in vain. The choice has already been made about having no other gods or graven images. Our conduct toward God is regulated by our love.

But, our love for man is also regulated by love. The man who loves his neighbor as he should will not kill, or steal his neighbor’s wife, or bear false witness, or covet. In these two summary statements, Jesus covers the entire law. On these two great commandments the entire law and all the prophets hang. No part of God’s law can be set aside, but love is the fulfillment of God’s law.

Love is a good test for all Christians. Do we love God? Yes, we say, but do we love to study God’s word? Do we love to pray to God? Do we love to assemble with saints to worship God? Are we willing to help our brothers who are in need? What about our neighbors and even our enemies? God demonstrated his love for us by sending his Son to die. We can talk about loving God all we want, but when will we act in service to God and man?

A life of love for God and man reduces the selfishness that is often prevalent in our lives. True love for God and man begins to demonstrate our faithfulness and concern for the things of God. To love God and man glorifies our heavenly Father and calls men to the Christ. Let us do so with all our heart, soul, and mind.

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 17, p. 14
September 2, 1993