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 neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Holy Week…from the triumphal entry to the cross to the grave to the resurrection. Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully man, rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday met by the praises of His people, knowing that just days later those very same worshipers would be shouting, “Crucify Him!” Having full knowledge of what awaited Him, He still came in love and in peace. He still poured Himself out in teaching the truth throughout that week, knowing full well the agony that was only days away. In the midst of this very first Holy Week, we receive some of the most beautiful and powerful words of truth from our Savior’s mouth.
Love God. Love people.
Mixed in among the final parables and teachings of Christ we are given the greatest commandment of all. If we had nothing else from God’s Word to live our lives by, we would have a clear road map within these few short verses of what to spend our lives for – loving God above all else and loving people. Get these two things right, and your heart is beating in accordance with the very heart of Christ.
Every occurrence of the word “love” in Scripture always pulls me back to 1 Corinthians 13 – perfect love defined. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul penned the most incredible description of love.
Love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud or rude or self-seeking. Love is not easily angered, and it KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS. (emphasis added; my paraphrase)
The description goes on, but allow me to pause right here on that last part – it keeps no record of wrongs. In light of Holy Week, I cannot get my thoughts and my affections off of the cross.
Jesus in my place; the ultimate sacrifice; love so amazing, so divine; my pardon, my redemption.
Images from the film Passion of the Christ flood my mind as I picture Jesus stumbling down the Way of Suffering, bearing the heavy burden of that cross on his marred back. He did it for you. He did it for me. Your sins nailed Him to that tree. My sins put Him there. The ultimate forgiveness. I don’t deserve it, and I have done nothing to earn it. Neither have you. That’s what is so amazing about grace and forgiveness. It’s freely given to us, and we are meant to then freely extend it to others.
To Love God is to put Him and His Word above all else in life. It is to prioritize obedience to Him alone. To love people is to forgive as Christ forgave you. It is to see them through the loving eyes of Jesus Christ. Over the years, I’ve come to an understanding of what the hardest part of the cross must have been for Christ. The physical pain was beyond agony, no doubt, but when God the Father turned His face from His Son, Jesus, it is then that Christ gave up His spirit. It was just too much for Him to bear. That is what sin does. It separates us from God. Through the cross, God now looks upon us through the bloody, nail-pierced hands of Jesus Christ and sees us clothed in righteousness. He chooses to see us blameless, although we are not. NO RECORD OF WRONGS. He sees us spotless and clean. Forgiveness at its greatest.
To be like Jesus is to love and forgive. Those that have wounded you may not deserve it, but guess what? Neither you nor I deserve the forgiveness of Christ. But it was poured out through His veins and freely given to us. Your significance is not found in what has happened TO you but in what Christ has done FOR you. God heals, restores, and rebuilds. Try and remember this the next time you are given the opportunity to forgive. Until we fully grasp the weight of the cross and its implications on us, we will never be able to fully obey the greatest commandment: Love God. Love people.
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