“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments…are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’”
The Ten Commandments can be divided into two parts (probably why they were written on two tablets). The first four commandments concern our relationship with God. The final six commandments deal with our interactions with other people.
The Problem With The Commandments
The commandments are the perfect and true expression of God’s will, but they lack the ability to produce what they demand.
Ashley Null, a scholar on theologian Thomas Cranmer, stated the following concerning God’s commands and our hearts: “According to Cranmer, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.
The trouble with human nature is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways. Therefore, God must intervene in our lives in order to bring salvation.
Working through Scripture, the Holy Spirit first brings a conviction of sin in a believer’s heart, then He births a living faith by which the believer lays hold of the righteousness of Christ.”
The story of Israel and our own lives demonstrate that the perfection sought by God’s commandment cannot be met unless God Himself intervenes to help us.
The Ten Commandments show our wickedness and selfishness, but it do not have the power to change us or deliver us from sin.
The law cannot fix what has been broken. The power to heal only lies with Jesus.
The Ten Commandments Summarised
The 10 Commandments, at their core, are all about love. Jesus Christ summarised the law into two great commandments.
“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”
Notice what apostle Paul says on summing up of the commandments:
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law.
If you truly love your neighbour as yourself, you will not steal, lie, kill, or covet what belongs to your neighbour. When you wrong your neighbour, you are actually placing your needs above God’s word. If you really love the Lord with all of your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength, you naturally want to do the right thing. In both ways, walking in love keeps you from sin. Failure to love often leads you into other sins.
The ‘New’ Commandment of Jesus
John 13:34 speaks about a ‘new commandment’ of Jesus.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
We just learned that love is the summary of all commandments. How then is this command to love “NEW”?
Jesus called these commandments ‘new’ because it teaches us to:
1. Abide first in His love.
2. Learn from His example of “how-to” love.
1. Abide First In His Love
We love because he first loved us.
Our love is only a response to God’s love for us. It is the nature of the fallen mind to love itself before anyone else. We cannot love God in the way that we should unless we are reborn of Him and receive His abundant grace.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Can you see how Jesus is clearly emphasising here that we cannot bear fruit unless we draw from His limitless supply? Our Father cherishes us regardless of our imperfections.
Under grace, we intimately experience His unconditional love and are transformed by His spirit.
We cannot truly love others unless we have first been filled with His love.
We cannot give something we do not have.
2. Learn From His Example of “How-To” Love
As humans, we often rely on our ‘feelings’ to show love to others. When we find it difficult to love someone, we wish for them to change. This shows that we only care about loving someone if they fit within our box of expectations. But this is not how God loves us.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
John begins with the phrase “not that we loved God”. God loved us first despite knowing our innermost selfish thoughts. He didn’t wait for us to attain perfection to be able to love us. Hence, in His new commandment, Jesus asks us to love others even when they are undeserving, just as God loved us even when we were undeserving.
The bible says love is patient, love is kind. Love is defined as a verb in the Bible. It’s not just a feeling or emotion.
Love flows easily out of a humbled heart. We are humbled when we dwell on Christ’s love for us, that despite knowing what filthy wretches we are, He chose to die in our place and continues to love us despite our blunders. We must bring our darkest sins to God, so that His light can shine on our innermost beings and heal what needs to be healed.
For a cancer survivor, empathy for someone else battling cancer comes naturally. Similarly, we, who were once lost in our sins and are now saved by Christ, find it easier to empathise with other broken beings struggling with their weaknesses.
We can extend grace to the flawed by drawing from Christ’s overflowing love in us since we know we were once no better. We are all different versions of one another. We are all flawed, broken, imperfect, and in desperate need of Jesus.
Jesus, despite being the Lord, served even the wicked as a lowly servant. God, the king of the universe Himself, washed the apostles’ feet! Similarly, God invites us to draw from His love in order to serve others. Even when we are not ‘feeling’ like it, we perform acts of love for others. Remember that love is an action verb.
If you are finding it hard to love a difficult person, ask the Lord for help, “Lord, by myself, I’m weak and unable to love this person. But I am in You, and You are in me. And in You, I am strong. You do not lack love, even for the unloveable. Help me love this person as a carrier of your love. “
Christ’s love is not just pardon for our sins. It’s also the power to overcome our weaknesses. Stay focused on Him for your every need.
Growing In Love Is a Lifelong Process
As soon as we are saved, we don’t immediately start loving everyone perfectly. Growing in love is a process that takes time. The more we grow in the awareness of God’s love for us, the more we grow in our ability to love others.
There will be occasional slips into selfishness. We all fail at times. But instead of feeling condemned and staying self-focused, we now rejoice in Christ’s unconditional love for us, which does not abandon us even when we make mistakes, and we continue spreading love as His children of light on this earth.