Jesus’ most intimate teaching was directed to his disciples. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus defines the difference between a true disciple and a false one.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Mt. 7:21-23).
If this teaching doesn’t shake you to the core, you better examine your spiritual depth. This is a very strong indictment against a spiritual trajectory gone haywire. From the sound of these disciples’ response it seems that they are surprised by the indictment because they believed they were doing the will of the Father. Interestingly the disciples in this passage do great spiritual things: prophesying, driving out demons and performing miracles in the name of Jesus. It sounds to me like they are fully devoted followers of Jesus.
Sadly, they put piety (their devotion to, and work for God) over the most important thing.
The Most Important Thing
There is a man who comes to Jesus not long after the Sermon on the Mount and in effect asks for the bottom line. He wants to know the most important thing so he asks Jesus, “What’s the greatest commandment”?
Jesus’ response is, “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”.
But Jesus doesn’t stop at that. He says, “All of the Law and the Prophets hangs on these two commands” (Mt. 22:40).
Jesus says that everything written in the Word of God regarding God’s will for His people can be summarized in loving God and loving others.
The Really Most Important Thing
Jesus’ disciples heard the Savior’s response to this man. I assume that they were starting to logically put things together. But in case they missed it, Jesus has his final discourse in the upper room with the disciples. He tells them that people will identify them as true disciples by their LOVE for one another (Jn. 13:35). He precedes this with a NEW Command: to love each other.
Wait isn’t the new command the old command? By Jesus calling this the new command he emphasizes the timeless supremacy of the only command. This is the will of the Father.
Some have Missed It
Love is not a word that the world would use to describe Jesus’ disciples, his Church today. The trajectory is off because we would rather be pious than loving. We would rather the world know that we are fully devoted followers of Christ by what we do than the love we show.
Piety is demonstrated in the following ways:
- Reading God’s Word daily.
- Prayer and Fasting.
- Regularly attending the right church.
- Evangelizing the lost.
- Defending the truth of the correct doctrine that we hold to so dearly.
- A palatable hate for sin . . . in others!
- A passion (like it or not) to verbally “call out” immorality in society in the name of “taking a stand for Jesus”.
- Being like Jesus, e.g., WWJD.
Piety isn’t a bad thing (in some cases) – it’s just not the important thing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 plainly teaches that piety interferes with love. The Apostle Paul says,
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”.
For all the great things that we do for God and the devotion we show, if love doesn’t mark our lives we are nothing.
Remember the Great Command?
Let’s get back to the guy who asked Jesus for the most important command. Jesus said to love God and “love your neighbor as yourself”. The man follows that with a question, “Then who is my neighbor”? Jesus responds with a parable. We call it the parable of the Good Samaritan when it should really be the parable of the Loving Neighbor.
You know the story: a man is brutally beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. A Samaritan (the lowest of people in that era) rescues him, sacrificially cares for him, and restores him. But before that happened a priest and a Levite (the holy order of high priests) come upon the man and pass by on the other side.
Here Jesus is making an important distinction that the Jewish listener would have immediately understood. He is not implying that the priest and Levite are uncaring or disinterested. He is implying that they are so devoted to God that they are intent on living un-compromised over being loving. The law required that they should pass on the other side of the street if they encountered any dead thing. The priest may have mistaken a bloodied, broken unconscious man for being dead. Not wanting to compromise his devotion to God, he passes by. The law also demanded that contact with anything stained by sin should be avoided. The Levite may have thought that the man could only have been seedy and brought this upon himself. He may have even said that the half dead man was suffering the consequences for his sin. Nonetheless the Levite couldn’t stain himself by coming into contact with this vile individual so he walks to the other side, as required by the law.
People will know we are real disciples by our love, not by the great spirituality we exude, the stand that we take, or the faith we demonstrate.
The Sobering Truth
If at people cannot instantly say that you are a loving, compassionate person, they cannot say you are a Christian.
We would rather be pious than loving. We would rather take our stand so that people know what we believe without compromise than to compassionately reach out to those we think are vile and wicked. We would rather gossip about the sins of a brother than lovingly shut down the conversations. We would rather make confrontations under the guise of “speaking the truth in love,” than establish a loving track record that allows the capitol to speak into someone’s life. We easily pass the pious judgment of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” without even having a relationship with the sinner – let alone loving him.
It’s not surprising that Jesus would plainly say, “I never knew you; Away from me, you evildoers”.
This trajectory is easily changed when we earnestly strive to be loving over anything else. God continuously teaches His followers to be loving (1 Thes. 4:9); the Holy Spirit pours God’s love through us (Rom. 5:5); and we need to come together to stir each other to be more loving (Heb. 10:24). Let’s live into the DNA that marks true disciples. Let’s be the people marked by LOVE!
Please leave your comment and stir us to be more loving!