Life is pretty much one dimensional if we do not have any goals and purpose that we are moving toward. Without goals in life we are doing nothing more than surviving, coasting from one day to another. It is as if we have put our brain in neutral and just exist. Goals give us a forward motion, the sense that we are achieving something with our life. It gives us more than just today to “get through”. This is true for believers and non-believers, the difference being that hopefully believers’ goals are based on the Father’s will and not on self-gratification.
The Apostle John seemed to have simplified everything down to one goal that impacted every aspect of a person’s life. This goal is the foundation from which everything else grows and it is simply put: learn to love as Jesus loved. John’s simplified view of it all is by far a much better word than I hear from many preachers today and it fits with what Jesus taught. Jesus said that everything is summed up with two commands: love God with your entire being (be consumed by this love) and love your neighbour. We hear this reflected throughout the New Testament in commands such as “think of others as more important than yourself”. It is the life that Jesus modelled for us and it is the greatest challenge and goal we can have for our lives.
In a letter to a friend John writes:
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (2 John 1:5)
Not surprising from John who wrote in a similar fashion in his first letter. Here we see that what he taught to the Church he also taught to individual friends. In his long life this is what he discovered it boils down to, learning to love in the same manner as Jesus loved. That is a mouthful to write because Jesus is no ordinary lover. He has loved us with a self-sacrificing love, one that loves even when nothing is returned, even in the face of hatred. I think this is so profound that it can take a life-time before we discover the great depth to it. For John it was like a circle:
I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 1:5-6)
Jesus told us that if we love him we would obey him and the command he gave us is to love each other as he loved us. John’s definition of loving God is walking in obedience to his commands. Even from the Old Testament we read:
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
Replace sacrifice with the idea of worship. Some of us are great worshippers but lousy lovers. We think we are demonstrating our love for God by our great singing, dancing, arm waving and incredible lyrics. Yet, this is as useless to God as sacrifices when we fail to live a life of obedience to him because the lack of obedience is a lack of love. The Apostle Paul said that if we do anything without love it is useless and so are we:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
So here is the thing: to love God but hate your brother is the same as saying you hate God. You cannot say that you love God and then do the opposite of what he has commanded. His command is that we walk in love, as John says, but not just any love; we are to love as he loves us. That is the challenge to discover, the depth of the love he has for us. We have sung it in some recent songs that have come out; songs of incredible depth in their simplistic approach to such a great theme of depth. Yet, as John says, it is a new command but it isn’t a new command. It is a greater revelation of a very old command. Since the dawn of time it has been the message of our Creator and it has always been the motivation of his actions. Even those who have no relationship with him long for this love. John Lennon wrote of the theme at the same time he rejected the author of it as he wrote “All we need is love”.
There is no greater goal in life than to want to learn to love God by walking in obedience. There is no greater goal in life than wanting to walk in love. We take our example from Jesus as we desire to walk as he walked but we cannot walk in this same manner unless we have the same motivation, which is obedience and love. We take the advice of Paul which is to throw off all the character of our old life, without self-sacrificial love and we but on the new life which Jesus Christ has given us:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:5-14)
In all our goals there is nothing compared to this one goal of walking in love, as we demonstrate to our God how much we love him by our obedience to his command to love. As the Apostle Paul put it: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”