Love Above All

Posted by Roberta Grimes • June 15, 2024 • 8 Comments
Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus, Understanding Reality

O Lord my God, When I, in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
– Carl Boberg (1859-1940) & Stuart K. Hine (1899-1989), from “How Great Thou Art” (1949)

You and I are urged to love God, to love Jesus, and to love our fellow man, so the notion that love is a spiritual concept is not surprising to us at all. But it was Jesus who first made love our spiritual imperative! When Moses led the Hebrew people back out of Egypt in the year 1476 BCE after their four-hundred-year-sojourn in Egyptian slavery, God then gave to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai those Ten Commandments by which God’s chosen people were henceforth commanded to live their lives. And while God was delivering His Ten Commandments on the mountaintop, there was smoke, and thunder and lightning, and the sound of a trumpet, so the people shrank away and were terrified. They said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself, and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die!” (Ex 20:18-19) If love was eventually to become God’s eternal core commandment, wouldn’t you think that God might have maybe mentioned love ro His chosen people back then, if only to offer some comfort as they were being forced to sojourn in the wilderness? But, no. Behold from Exodus 20, God’s Ten Commandments that were handed down to the Hebrew people four thousand, five hundred years ago, amid smoke, lightning, and even a trumpet’s blare:     

From the year 1476 BCE on and throughout the Old Testament, people will on occasion show love for one another, and some of them develop what seems to be a genuine love for God. Consider David, especially. The boy shepherd and psalmist who grew to become a great king of Israel a thousand years before Jesus was born seems in his many profound and beautiful psalms to have developed a surprisingly deep and loving and even quite modern-seeming relationship with God. But still, in all the years before Jesus was born, the Hebrew people’s relationship with God remained deeply respectful and primarily transactional. They had to have clergymen and scribes through whom they related to God, and they had to offer animals as sacrifices in their temples. The Jewish people prior to the advent of Jesus didn’t love God on a personal level, as you and I might think of love. As always has been true whenever people have related to God by means of a human-made religion, they were afraid of God.

So I don’t think it is possible for us to appreciate what a shock to their whole system Jesus’s teachings were in the first-century world in which He taught on earth. Please again read that list of Ten Commandments above, and remember that God delivered them from the top of a mountain amid smoke, lightning flashes and a trumpet’s blare. This was what constituted spirituality in the minds of people in the first century CE, at the time and in the place where Jesus was born on earth. People then were certain that it was adherence to formal religious rules and practices that must of course be what mattered most to God!

Okay, so after fifteen hundred years of their having lived and worshiped that way, then along came Jesus. And what do we know about Jesus, from the Gospels? For one thing, we know that Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, made sure that Jesus received as he grew up an excellent religious education. Jesus could argue the fine points of scripture with ease and with anyone, and that was important. Jesus was also quite charismatic. He spoke well, and in every group of people He would tend to be the center of it. Think of the most likable guy in your entire high school class, the smartest student and probably also the best athlete. That was Jesus.

Jesus was also what we might call a flaming radical when compared with the stodgy religious teachers around Him, which made Him especially popular as people followed Him around. They were eager to hear whatever He might say next! That list of Ten Commandments that by Jesus’s day were thought of as ancient Holy Writ were to Jesus’s mind quite bendable, and the crowds loved to hear Him successfully handle challenges from religious scholars of His opinions on one or another of those ancient religious rules. To Jesus, the rules were not important. It was the motive behind the way each rule was applied or not applied that was important. “People break the Sabbath all the time to haul their donkey out of a pit, don’t they?” So then, one day and in a single stroke, Jesus used God’s much greater rule of love – a rule that until He began to teach, no one had ever heard of before – to wipe away all Ten Commandments in a single stroke, and with them the whole of what we call the Old Testament. Jesus replaced the entire Hebrew Law and the Prophets with God’s new and greater Law of Love.

This is truly amazing! The Pharisees and the Sadducees were two different schools of Jewish scholars. In the early days of Jesus’s public ministry they would tag-team test Him, until fairly soon He had worn them all down. Jesus seemed to delight in these battles of wits that He was having with stodgy religious scholars, and it is not hard to see why they soon became so fed-up with Him. Here is that wonderful example:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Jesus a question, testing Him. He said, 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22 34-40).

So Jesus has at last here in one stroke superseded all of the Ten Commandments, and the entire Old Testament with them, and He has commanded us instead to love God and to love our fellow man with everything that is in us! Not because our love is something that God needs, but because, amazingly, Jesus completely understood when He was on earth the makeup of reality, as twenty-first-century materialist scientists still to this day do not understand reality, even two thousand years later! Jesus knew that only what we experience as consciousness exists, and He knew that consciousness is governed by what we experience as emotion. What more certain proof that Jesus came to us as a divine Being can there ever be than this? And because He knew these great truths about reality, He knew that in order for us to grow spiritually, we would have to shed every one of our fears, and especially our ancient fear of God, and learn to embrace ever more perfect love. So Jesus’s teachings are all about helping us to do precisely that!

Religion is a primary source of fear in every culture, so Jesus made it clear repeatedly that He had come to abolish all religions, and to teach us to relate to God individually and based upon love alone. He battled the prevailing religion throughout His public life, and He specifically told us to pray to God in private. For example, He said, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (MT 6:5-6). And He was always putting down the clergy, saying things like this: 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (LK 20:46-47).

Jesus told us repeatedly to love one another! He often said things like, 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (JN 13:34-35)

As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples, that was how He left them. He charged them with spreading over all the earth His great command that we love God and love one another. 18 Jesus spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (MT 28: 18-20)

So then we imagine Jesus watching with fond parental eagerness as The Way spread rapidly following His resurrection. But as the decades passed, it occurred to Him that His followers were not sufficiently emphasizing love! They were getting caught up in what He would have seen as extraneous details, like their ability to “speak in tongues”, or to prophesy, or their giving to charities perhaps, or who among them had the greatest faith, and so on. They were even caught up in how many were being martyred, while they were already forgetting that teaching all their new converts to love was by far the most important thing! So my Thomas tells me that maybe three decades after His resurrection, Jesus channeled a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth, to try to nudge The Way back onto its love track more directly. And when you know that Jesus is the one writing this letter, and not Paul, you clearly can see that. Dear old fussbudgetty Paul’s letters all read very differently from this one! Enjoy, my dear ones, Jesus’s last earthly message to us all:

13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I also have become fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, these three abide; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13)

“Faith, hope, love, these three abide; but the greatest of these is love.” These are the last words that we have from Jesus on earth. And fitting final words from Him to us they are!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
– Carl Boberg (1859-1940) & Stuart K. Hine (1899-1989), from “How Great Thou Art” (1949)


Roberta Grimes
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8 thoughts on “Love Above All

  1. Hello Roberta and All,
    Years ago, I had a client in NE Florida. Every Friday afternoon a middle-aged man would park his pickup across from the courthouse and local shops, climb up into the truck bed and loudly read from the Bible. I had never seen anything like that. The client told me that the man rarely missed a Friday. I think that he was expressing love and concern for his fellow man the only way that made sense to him.

    1. Oh my dear AC, what a peculiar story! But I guess that your interpretation of it is right; that there just are times, somehow, that certain people just somehow feel driven to do certain things, and that simply is the way that it is, and they go with it! 🙂

  2. Perhaps, Mr Grayson, that man was doing what you’ve described for the reasons you’ve suggested but it’s conjecture….. How much his approach actually helped others – if it helped at all – would also be conjecture.

    We can only hope someone was indeed helped by his so doing…..

    1. Ah, my dear Mac, I have just see this now. But what else can we do? Perhaps even one person heard that reading of the Bible and was helped by it?

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