If a Man Love Me
R. V. Court, Bristol, England
Love has been called “the characteristic word of Christianity”. It was love that moved God to reveal Himself to men who otherwise would for ever have remained in ignorance of His true character. Love was the moving force in the divine plan of redemption: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son”, John 3. 16. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”, 1 John 4.10. Note the phrase “not that we loved God” and see how it magnifies the love of God to mankind. The solemn words of Romans 1. 30, “haters of God”, describe man’s natural attitude - the love was all from God and totally undeserved. Because of that “love to the loveless shown” the apostle John was able to write “We love him, because he first loved us”, 1 John 4. 19. Paul echoed the same truth: “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts”, Rom. 5. 5. The love implanted by the Holy Spirit returns to the One who first lavished it upon us, and the more we appreciate His love for us the greater will be our love for Him.
Love Proves itself by Obedience Love, however, is more than mere sentiment. True love will reveal itself, even as the love of God revealed itself, in giving and doing. The Lord Jesus made it clear that love for Himself was more than a matter of uttering pious expressions. It is easy to sing when in the company of others “My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine”, without there being any real evidence of it in daily living, and the Lord, who knows the heart, knows that so often the words are hollow and meaningless.
When the Lord Jesus wished to show His own disciples how love to Him should be evidenced, He began to talk to them about obedience, an intensely practical thing. In John 14. 21 He stressed that the man who had His commandments and kept them was the man who loved Him. This is of tremendous importance for it is possible to know the commandments of the Lord and for all practical purposes ignore them. The Lord had previously had occasion to challenge some in the matter of lordship - “why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”, Luke 6. 46. Now He is applying the same principle in relation to claims of love to Him. As on the one hand to withhold obedience is a practical denial of His Lordship and authority, whatever claims to the contrary we may make, so on the other hand, to refrain from doing His commandments gives very plain evidence that the love we profess to have for Him consists of words only with no heart reality.
Some may stumble at the use of the word “commandment” an this connection and seek to argue that such a word brings us into the realm of law and that “law” and “love” are not compatible. Those who would reason along these lines may like to consider James 2. 8 where love to a neighbour is shown to be the fulfilment of what James calls “the royal law”, and our Lord’s own words in Matthew 22. 39 where He claims that the second great commandment is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour”. Law and love are here seen to be in harmony, walking together in agreement.
True love to the Lord Jesus will yield a glad obedience which could never be likened to the slavish observance of a rigid law to which penalties for disobedience are attached. This love will be concerned not so much with a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” but with the slightest indication of the wishes of the One loved.
Love Longs to Please the Lord
At a first reading it would seem that in John 14. 23-24 the Lord repeated Himself, but comparison with what He had said in verse 21 will show that instead of speaking of “my commandments” He is now speaking of “my words” and “my sayings”. Why the change? It is suggested that the “words” and “sayings” of the Lord Jesus are those things uttered by Him which; while not coming within the category of specific commandments, nevertheless indicate what are His thoughts and give guidance to what will bring pleasure or grief to Him. It is safe to assume that those first disciples who listened so often to the words of the Lord came to know instinctively the kind of thing which would please Him and their love for Him would lead them to do those things without specific commandment so to do.
A divinely given illustration of this principle in action is given to us in 2 Samuel 23. 14-17. David, in exile from the court of Saul, finding shelter in the cave of Adullam with the band of men who had linked themselves with him, had an almost over-powering longing for the water of the well in his home village, “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate”. David would not have dreamt of commanding any of his men to secure the water he desired, the task was too perilous. Bethlehem was garrisoned by the Philistines and any of David’s men entering there would have to battle their way in and out or, if at all possible, seek to steal through under the cover of darkness, To do such a thing for a mere drink of water was a fool-hardy thing and David cared too much for his men even to consider it. But some of these men had come to love David in such a way that they deemed it a privilege to risk their lives to bring him pleasure. David longed for the water of Bethlehem, it was enough! They knew his longing and without any command but simply actuated by love for him they determined to give him his heart’s desire. It is likely that as they set out on their perilous task their comrades ridiculed them : “You are mad” they would say, “David has not commanded this thing, why do it, what good can come of it?” Their all-sufficient reply would be, “We love David and what we are about to do will prove our love to him and give him pleasure”, and it did! The heart of David was touched - how could he doubt for one moment that when these men claimed to love him they meant it?
Sometimes young Christians who sincerely love the Lord and desire to please Him have difficulty in deciding a course of action. They cannot find a clear passage of Scripture which will adequately outline the course they should take. They cannot find a “commandment” which demands obedience. “Should one go to the cinema?” True there are no scriptures dealing with cinemas. “How should one dress in a day of constantly changing fashions?” The sisters are sometimes perplexed about the matter of long hair or short hair. “Should a Christian have interests in the world of sport.
Believers of experience may find no real difficulty in resolving these problems from the Word of God, although it must be confessed that little is heard these days concerning them from experienced brethren. In consequence young believers are left undecided, looking for a “thus saith the Lord”. The problem would be resolved very quickly if the principle of John 14. 23-24 were kept in mind, “What would please the Lord? I cannot find any positive commandment in relation to this thing, but what would He wish?” If there is a sincere desire to please the Lord in this way the Holy Spirit will leave the enquirer in no doubt and the resultant action will prove the love of the believer to his Lord and lead to an enrichment of his own spiritual life. Of course some will react as it has been suggested some did in David’s day, and the simple believer seeking to prove his love to his Saviour will be charged with being “out of touch with reality”, and not “with it”. An adequate reply surely is this, “I love Him and I believe He would have me do this”.
The Lord delights in the love which is prepared to put aside personal wishes and preferences and risk the censure of others in order to give Him pleasure, and to those who love Him like this comes the promise of John 14. 23, “my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him”. This will result in an ever-deepening enjoyment of the love of God which surpasseth knowledge.