The Debt We Owe

We must not let Jesus’ parable be trapped in its first century context. God consistently puts people in our path, in less dire circumstances, to do good to them, to love them as God has loved us. Like our subjection to the governing authorities, we do good not out of a fear of wrath but out of love for God and our neighbor. For, God is love, and in his love “he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Greatest of These

According to Jesus, what is the distinguishing mark of a Christian? Is it faith? Surely, that which God gives, and through which we are his, is the distinguishing mark? Or, is it hope? Surely, that which rests squarely on God’s provision in Christ, and in which we are to abound, is the distinguishing mark? But as essential as faith is and as important as hope is, shortly before the conclusion of his earthly ministry, Jesus said to his disciples, “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). Echoing Jesus’ command and reinforcing its distinction, Paul confirms, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Preserving Love

Christian, there is nothing in your past or in your future, nothing that can thwart the preserving love of God. Rest assured that he who foreknew you, who predestined you, who justified you, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And because this is true and certain, we are sure of this: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39).

Loved to Love

Consider our passage today in Leviticus. He who is holy calls his people to be holy, like Father like child, a set apartness of and for God. What follows is a less succinct almost lyrical expansion of the Ten Commandments, an elaboration on what it means to love God and examples of what it looks like to love our neighbor. For example, it may surprise us to find that despite the thousands of years that separate us from ancient Israel, how Israel is commanded to love their neighbor is remarkably relevant for us today. So, if I too may summarize, loving our neighbor means loving generously, honestly, equitably, justly, and reasonably.

The Way

Consider the immediate reality of this eternal life! How we live now has meaning and significance. As R.C. Sproul said rightly, “Right now counts forever.” [3] And as Jesus is the Way, it is through him that we live this life. The way to eternal life and the way to live life are one in the same—through faith in the Son of God. This is why Paul could say, “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20), and that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:17).

The Bond of Peace

In other words, maintaining peace in the local church is not a cause to fight for but an act of worshipful service to our Triune God. As we live out our faith in Christ in the local church “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is revealed.

Love Shines Through

It is as practical as the commandments in Leviticus and as beautiful as the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. And when we as the church love one another as Christ loved us, that love shines through to the world, awaiting a fitting response. May the world watch and see and say: “Certainly these are the followers of Christ, they have been with Jesus.”[8]