Recently, I was thinking about love.
When we hear messages about love, sometimes they may feel… incomplete. They’re warm and fuzzy, they’re unobjectionable and, sure, biblical—but don’t they leave out the demands of confession, repentance, and transformation?
And I had two thoughts about that.
First, if you think that love isn’t connected to confession and repentance or that love doesn’t demand transformation, then I’m not sure you’re working with the New Testament’s definition of love. It’s the humbling, self-sacrificing work of a servant—and, in a sense, all of your neighbors are the master.
Second, it’s really no exaggeration to say that love is the summary of all the teachings of scripture. It’s not a vague, feel-good message. It’s the backbone of the gospel.
“‘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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8b)
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
The Bible couldn’t make love sound more essential and more central if it stuck that old Beatles song somewhere in the middle of the psalms.
There’s only one thing more important than ‘clothing yourselves with love’ (Col 3:14), in my mind. As Christians, love must flow out of our lives. Ultimately, though, Christians are defined by the love that we allow into our lives.
In Jesus’s famous tale of the prodigal son, the boy’s predicament resolves after he decides he’ll return home to his father, confess his transgressions, and ask to become a hired hand on the family farm (Luke 15:17-20). But that’s not actually how things played out. He did return home. He did confess. But he didn’t become a farmhand. He didn’t even bring it up. Instead, as the disgraced son made his speech, his father interjected:
“Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (15:22-24)
For the rest of his days, this son’s life would be defined, not by any efforts he made to show his contrition or be worthy of such a welcome, but by the love of his father, who embraced him, forgave him, and joyously welcomed him home.
Love is the backbone of the gospel. Loving others is the business of the Christian life. And, more than that, our Father’s love for us is the source of the Christian life, the foundation on which everything else stands.
It really is all you need.