How to Love

Jesus' parable of the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan is a powerful story with a very important lesson for all of us. You should take time to read it before reading what I have to say here (Luke 10).

The Bible scholars and experts of Jesus' day often tested Jesus with all sorts of questions regarding his interpretation of the Scriptures. In this particular story in Luke 10, this Biblical scholar wants Jesus to weigh-in on what someone must do to inherit the Kingdom of God. However, Jesus answers his question with a question asking the man how he would summarize the main thrust of what the Scriptures teach.

This Biblical scholar gives Jesus an answer and says that all of God’s instructions can be summed up like this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is a great answer.

And Jesus confirms this answer.

And Jesus tells him that if he does this, he will inherit the Kingdom of God.

But this Biblical scholar isn't satisfied yet. He wants to press the question even further. So he asks Jesus to define what is meant by the word neighbor.

He’s basically saying, “Yeah, I’m supposed to love my neighbor, but who exactly is my neighbor?” And it’s important to notice how Jesus answers this particular question. The parable that Jesus uses to answer this question doesn’t really address what type of people we should love. Instead, it addresses the bigger issue which is are we the type of people who love others?

Many times we want to ask, “What kind of person should I love?” but Jesus declares that the better question is, “Am I living like a person that loves?” 

The Greatest Command

This story in Luke 10 is very similar to another time when Jesus was asked a particular Bible question. He was once asked which one of God’s commands should be considered the greatest. Jesus responded to that question with the same answer given by this guy in this story. Jesus said:

“The most important command is this, ’Hear, Oh Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And the second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12)

And so, Jesus confirms and connects these two commands from Scripture to give one great and over-arching command that ought to define who we are as his followers. We are commanded as followers of Jesus to love God passionately, and as his parable of the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan points out, we are also commanded to love others radically.    

These commands are connected and inseparable because an authentic love for God will always manifest itself in a radical love towards others.  

So as we look at Jesus’ teaching on this command to love, we’re going to take a little time to answer these three questions:

How do we love?
Who do we love?
And why do we love?

How Do We Love?

Scripture provides several great examples on how we ought to love, but for the sake of our time and study we will stick to this parable of the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan as a good example of how we ought to love.

And so how did the Samaritan man love in this story?

Well, he went out of his way to help someone else. It seems so basic, but it’s so easy for us to completely ignore or overlook how often we fail to do just that.

The Samaritan man had plans. He was going somewhere and had something to do. So when he stops on the side of the road and spends the time it took to care for the man and get him to a place where he could rest and recover, we can safely assume that whatever plans he had made for that day didn’t happen. Love is patient, and it does not seek its own interest over the interest of others.

So the Samaritan man had to sacrifice what he wanted to do that day to help someone else. And not only did he have to sacrifice his time, but he also ended up having to spend some of his own money. He spent two days worth of wages upfront and was willing to spend more if it was needed. Today, if you make around $75,000 a year then two days worth of wages would be around $400. When was the last time you randomly spent $400 to help someone you didn’t know and with a willingness to spend more than that if you had to? Love is generous, and it isn’t afraid to make a sacrifice for the benefit of someone else.

And so, we could study the Scriptures and get all sorts of great wisdom and guidance on how we ought to love, but at the most basic level, we learn from this story that we are to love by going out of our way to serve someone else.

Who Do We Love?

Now, let’s look at the next question, “Who do we love?”

Jesus confirmed that the Scriptures declare that we ought to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said that if we are doing this then we will inherit eternal life in the eternal Kingdom of God.

So is Jesus saying that all we have to do is live a life of love towards others and treat people like we would want them to treat us and then we will be good with God and granted eternal life?

There are many good people in the world who do a really good job of going out of their way to love others, but they have no love or affection for God. They are not necessarily opposed to God, but they just remain indifferent towards him. What about these people? Are they living a good enough life to be good with God and granted eternal life in his eternal Kingdom?

This is an important question with a very important answer. Jesus never gives any sort of impression that it is okay to be indifferent towards God as long as you are doing a great job of loving and serving the people around you. Jesus very clearly declares that our love towards other people must start and flow from a sincere and passionate love for God.

And so who do we love?

We start with a love for God, and we let that fuel a love for everybody else. And that everybody else includes the people that we like, but also the people that we don’t like or that don’t like us as well. And we should also never overlook that this everybody else especially includes other followers of Jesus who belong to the people of God.

Elsewhere, Jesus taught his followers the importance of loving one another by saying:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Why Do We Love?

So we’ve briefly looked at how we ought to love and who we ought to love, and now we need to wrap this up by making sure we are clear on why we ought to love.

Jesus said to love one another as he has loved us. He goes on again to emphasize this even further by saying:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14)

Jesus said there is no greater love that can be demonstrated on this earth than a love that would lead someone to lay down his life for the sake of his friends. And yet, God has gone above and beyond this level of love in that while we were living indifferent and in opposition to him, he demonstrated his love for us by sending his own Son into the world to lay down his life for us. We were more like enemies than friends, and yet God graciously loved us.

The Samaritan man in the story had compassion towards the guy who was left for dead. He stopped what he was doing to serve this guy who was left for dead. And he paid whatever it cost and sacrificed himself in order to provide rest, healing and restoration for the guy who was left for dead.

In the same way, Jesus has shown compassion to us who were dead towards God. He set aside his status and privileges as the Creator to serve his creation who was stuck on a path of destruction and despair. And he paid the ultimate cost and sacrificed himself in order to provide the rest, healing and restoration that we needed in order to enjoy eternal life in the eternal Kingdom of God.

We ought to love God because he loved us first. And we ought to love others because we are the unworthy recipients of the greatest act of love ever given. Let’s begin to look for opportunities to go out of our way to love other people. And let’s become known as those Jesus followers who love their God passionately and love the rest of the world radically.

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