Love or Die: Alexander Strauch on the Importance of Love
I began Love or Die this week, and true to form, Strauch wastes no time challenging the reader to get back to scripture and actually live out the words of Christ. In chapter 2, titled "When a Church Loses Its Love," Strauch answers the question "Why is love so important?" I thought I would pass his words on to whoever might be stopping by my blog.
Why Is Love So Important?
Why is the loss of love so serious? Why does it distress our Lord so deeply? Why is his threat of judgment so severe? Why is it a life or death issue for a local church? The answers are provided by Christ himself and those he commissioned as apostles.
First, Jesus taught that "the great and first commandment is to love God completely, totally, and unreservedly -- with all one's heart, with all one's soul, and with all one's mind (Matt. 22:37-38; Mark 12:28-34). The sum of all God's commandments and all religious service is love for God. It is the believer's first priority. It is the reason we were created. Nothing in life is more right, more fulfilling, and more rewarding than loving God our Creator and Savior.
Second, Jesus declared the second commandment is like the first: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39). Jesus makes love for God and neighbor inseparable companions. He summarized the heart of genuine religion, true inner spirituality, and all moral conduct by the double command to love God and love your neighbor. His own assessment of love is: "On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:40), and "There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:31).
Hence, Christ's followers are to be marked not only be total devotion to God by also by sacrificial service to neighbor. This neighbor love, according to Jesus, includes loving our enemies, our persecutors, and the unlovely (Matt. 5:43-48). Before you read any further, be sure you have grasped the importance of these two commandments for living the Christian life.
Strauch continues on to discuss four more points: Third, "true discipleship requires denying self and loving him above all others." Fourth, "love 'is to be the distinguishing mark of Christ's followers.'" Fifth, "John, the beloved disciple of Christ, declared that 'God is love' (1 John 4:8, 16).
And finally, in his sixth point, he writes: "Paul called love the 'more excellent way' of living.'...'And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing' (1 Cor. 12:31-13:3)."
Do we really pursue love as the chief of virtues? Do we pray for increased love toward God and others as often as we pray for personal wants? Do we truly love God above all else?
I'm thankful for authors like Strauch, who get me asking such questions.