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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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Jesus' Teaching: The Greatest Commandment
Find out about agape love
Jesus was once asked 'Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law?'
Rather than pick one specific commandment Jesus summarised the whole Jewish law in two principles: 'love God and love others.'
In both the Old and New Testaments, love along with such attributes as kindness, forgiveness, and faithfulness all show God's commitment to His people. The Bible teaches:
'For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.' John 3:16
As they believe that people are made in God's image, Christians also believe that people are made to love both God and others.
Christians also believe that Jesus shows God's great love for all people through his teachings and the way he lived, died and rose again. It is because of Jesus that everyone can know God personally, and knowing Him changes the way a person lives and treats others.
It is believed that God's love requires a response. His love seeks to bring everyone together and Christians believe that God's love can help overcome the issues that divide families, communities and even countries. The way a person approaches another should reflect God's love - St. Thomas Aquinas called it amor benevolentiae; a love that shows great care.
This kind of love can also be described using the Greek word agape, which means divine, selfless love.
How did Jesus express God's agape love?
Jesus expressed God's love in a number of ways throughout his ministry. Jesus ate with tax collectors and others who at the time were considered to be 'sinners.' He touched and healed those who, because of the way they were living or because of something that was wrong with them, were thought of as social outcasts.
Jesus did this even though he was criticised by the religious leaders of the day. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus' said,
"The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them" (John 15:13).
Christians believe that Jesus demonstrated this love himself, through his death on the cross in order for all people to have salvation, restoring their relationship with God forever.
Even when the cost is high, Jesus taught how God's love can be shown to everyone, including those who are considered enemies.
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘“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 neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39