Getting to Know Jesus: Part 2 – Loving Teacher

We talked last time about the old WWJD bracelets, and how they are fundamentally flawed if you don’t know who Jesus is. We looked at what his miracles reveal about him, and now we turn to another part of His ministry: His teaching. We know that Jesus was an incredible teacher – his words are still words that people live by today, even amongst those who don’t follow Jesus. I want to focus in now on three crucial teachings: how to love God, others, and yourself.

Jesus summed up the law, when asked, by quoting two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, and “love your neighbour as yourself. –  Matthew 22:37-40 It is easy to see this division in two other well-known parts of the Bible. The 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, where the first four commandments are about loving God, and the other six are about loving others. And in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), the first three petitions are – you guessed it! – loving God, while the last three focus on our own needs and our relationship with others.

So, how do we love God? We love God by remembering what He has done for us, that He first loved us – 1 John 4:19. We love God by committing to Him – the Hebrew in the verse that Jesus was quoting (Deut. 6:4-5) makes it clear that ‘love’ is a response of total, unreserved obedience. This means that we cannot dismiss His laws, even in the Old Testament, because they reveal the way that God wants us to live; we need to translate them for modern living, not ignore them. And finally, though not exhaustively, we love God with appropriate reverence. Knowing what God has done for us, knowing who He is, should elicit one crucial response: worship. David knew this, which is why Psalm 103 is a long list of reasons why God is worthy of the words Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. – v.1.

The second commandment actually has two parts to it: loving your neighbour and loving yourself. Both of these things flow out of love for God – they are not legalistic requirements for salvation, but rather a natural outflow of a right relationship with God. Loving others is incomplete unless it is with the love of God – the first fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22-23), and the best kind of love is clearly not one we can grow on our own (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). On the other hand, love of God is insincere if it does not have an outflow of loving others, which is why Jesus talks of throwing away branches that do not produce fruit (John 15:2), and James talks about faith being dead without works (James 2:14-17). I think this is why the command to love your neighbour comes second to the one to love God – when we devote all that we have to God, He gives us the capability to follow His commands and love others as we should. He gives us the capability to follow His commands and love others as we should.

The third element is loving yourself. The commandment is not to love your neighbour and forget yourself, but rather to love them as yourself. This means that we need to value ourselves rightly – as children of God, co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). God loves us so much that He sent His son to take our sins and restore us to a right relationship with Him, not just now but eternally (John 3:16). True understanding of this prevents the extremes of overly low or high self-esteem – we are valued and loved, but we are also not the authors of our own salvation.

Jesus taught on a great many things, which we don’t have room to go into here, but I think these 3 are central to his teaching and, therefore, central to who Jesus is. He loved and obeyed God with everything he had, even unto the cross (Philippians 2:8), he loved others (which we see in everything he did!) and he even loved himself. Jesus had no problem stating who he was, though in others it would have looked like the worst sort of bragging (e.g. John 8:12). He knew the difference between humility and self-deprecation!

So, what have we learnt so far? We know, from looking at Jesus’ miracles that He was full of divine power, He brought the holistic restoration of the Kingdom of God, and He had compassion on the people around him. And we know from His teaching that He was completely devoted to God, that He loved others with the love of God, and He valued himself as He ought. Is there anything here that is different to the picture of Jesus you have? Is there anything that might change the way you approach WWJD moments?

PRAYER: Ask God to strengthen your love for Him, for others and for yourself and to show you how to do that.

(Written by Natalie Crawford)

SONG: What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong –