Loving Like God Loves
Loving Like God Loves
by Lonnie Lane
It was God’s prime directive to Israel to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5). Yeshua echoed the same directive to His disciples (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Get that one commandment right and all the rest will follow. Actually, it’s pretty profound. When you think about it, if we really love one another, if we really love even our enemies, then God’s will is being fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven where only love and nothing “unloving” exists.
In the “love chapter,” we are told that “love…does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5). That seems to indicate that a “wrong” happens where love isn’t. This “wrong” is love withheld. When God’s kind of love is withheld or absent, somewhere there’s some kind of suffering. When something is ethically and morally wrong, where injustice exists, it brings harm to someone who suffers as a result. God is patient, but when His judgment comes or His wrath is exhibited, it is almost always because love has been withheld, either from Him or from others. Love can be replaced with apathy, which is the opposite of love because it doesn’t care at all. It’s dead. Apathy is akin to being lukewarm and we know how Yeshua feels about that! He told the church of Laodicea, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Rev.3:16). Be it apathy or a choice to withhold love, it is often fed by some resentment or bitterness (which can be an unhealed hurt or an unrepentant guilt) and can be carried on for generations. It can even grow into a spirit of murder. It begins with an offense that’s not forgiven and it grows. The Bible gives us many incidents of national judgment because of lovelessness. God brought the flood upon the earth because “the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen 6:11). “Filled with violence!” How scary is that? Violence is certainly love withheld.
God’s commandments are to maximize love among people. His wrath is usually against what is unloving toward Him or others. Love says we forgive and release others from their offenses or violations. Like Yeshua did for us. Yeshua modeled that kind of love in dying for us when we were still His enemies. People He knew murdered Him (their part); He forgave them (His part). His dying for all mankind wasn’t because He had a yummy feeling about us all that we might categorize as love, or because He was in agreement with us about everything. He loved us because God is love. And because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, (You know this verse; wanna say the rest of it with me?) that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
In doing some thinking about this recently, and reading Ephesians, particularly looking for more insight into the ”one new man (one new humanity)” (2:11-16) that we see God restoring today, some new thoughts merged with some already existing “rev” (revelation) on the subject. It’s easy for us to love those we’re related to, or those with whom
“Love says we forgive and release others from their offenses or violations.“
we share similar values or concerns. It’s easy to love those folks who love us in return. We’re more distant with those we don’t know. But Yeshua seemed to think we will love each other and be one in Him. I’ve found that it doesn’t take much getting to know each other before we love each other as brothers and sisters if the situation allows for at least some interaction with each other. We were just discussing this in my Kosher Bible class, about how we can just walk by a perfect stranger and your eyes connect for just a moment and you recognize each other as believers. I love when that happens and I usually experience a genuine love for them at that moment. Like if someone hurt them right then I’d have to jump in and say, “Hey, that’s my sister you’re messing with. Back off, in the name of Jesus!!!” Okay, a little dramatic, but there’s this sense of belonging when I know they’re believers too. There’s a connectedness. It’s not really our love though, especially if we don’t even know the person or know them well. We’re really feeling Yeshua’s love for that person; He puts His love in our hearts. How supernatural is that? If you haven’t had that experience, ask the Lord to open up your life to that kind of sensitivity to other believers. My then 88 year old mom (she’s 90 now) told the exterminator, “You’re a believer in Jesus, aren’t you? I can see it in your eyes.” He was. Fellowship with Mom and the bug guy.
God gave Israel the commandment to love Him and each other and a lot of other commandments about inclusion and exclusion. Inclusion was always open to anyone who wished to follow God’s ways, His Torah. And they were to be sure to exclude and stay apart from those who did not want to follow Yahweh. But for any foreigner, the sojourner or stranger who wanted to follow the ways of Israel’s God, to be included as one of Israel’s number and in order to share in the Feasts of the Lord such as Passover, the males had to be circumcised.
To really understand how this fits in with our discussion about love we must go back to Genesis 17 and see what significance circumcision had to God when He instructed Abraham to keep the commandment of circumcision (brit milah). God’s instructions to Abraham were to circumcise every male in their company, both Hebrews and those who attached themselves to them. It was a sign of the covenant, which God Himself made with Abraham and his descendants forever. The ceremony, or the act of circumcision, is what made them sons of the promise. Still today when a Jewish baby boy is circumcised when he is eight days old, he is declared a son of the covenant and a celebration takes place. Reading Genesis 17:1-14 we see what “everlasting” covenantal promises accompany the act of circumcision. God had chosen a people through whom He would reveal Himself and His ways to the rest of the world. He showed His love for Israel through His covenant with them.
Paul, in speaking with the Gentiles in the church, told them that they were called the “uncircumcised” by the Jews (Ephesians 2:11). Since circumcision is the sign of the covenant Israel has with God (Romans 4:8; Acts 7:8), then to the Jews, an uncircumcised man was someone in the same category as Goliath, whom David called “an uncircumcised Philistine” (I Sam’l 17:36), meaning someone who is far from God and under His judgment. Why would Paul even bring up the matter to them if he was not requiring them to be circumcised in order to be included in the fellowship of the believers?
Paul had to reconsider what circumcision would mean in terms of the covenant from God’s perspective if He was inviting the Gentiles into relationship with the Messiah of Israel. If circumcision determined citizenship, what did it mean to invite the uncircumcised to be equal believers in Messiah with those who believed in Israel? If all of Torah is fulfilled by the Messiah, that is, kept in its entirety so that God counts us who are in Messiah as having kept it all, then it is by the Spirit that circumcision is accomplished. Or said another way, it is the spirit of circumcision that determines citizenship.
Circumcision is no longer circumcision accomplished by hands, Paul says, but a circumcision in the deepest part of one’s innermost being, in our hearts. If we are truly citizens of the Kingdom of God, then our hearts will be circumcised, according to Romans 2:26-29. There will always be those who might appear to be a Jew, or a citizen of the Kingdom (a Christian) outwardly, but God who does not look at the outward man, looks to see if there is a hidden circumcision of the heart; a cutting away, so to speak, of the flesh or the natural and carnal ways of humankind and a seeking after the ways of God. We could call these folks the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:6). The amazing declaration here is that that which has been so exclusively Israel now extends to the Gentiles in a spiritual application so that circumcision of the heart brings near those who were far away from God.
We might see the term “circumcised heart” as a metaphor more than a reality of commitment. But it means to commit to keeping the commandments of God, to obey Him and to consider one’s self entirely and covenantally His. Paul took physical circumcision very seriously as did every Jew, as the foundation of covenant relationship with God. Paul took spiritual circumcision no less necessary in order to be included in the “new covenant” which God promised to Israel: “…I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be My people…for I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
So you see, the New Covenant wasn’t meant by God to be for the Gentiles and excluding the Jews; it was God’s gift to the Jews which He opened to the Gentiles. This new covenant changes the heart of those who come into
“The new covenant changes
it, to a heart of love that is able to abide by His commandment to love Him, others and ourselves. God created the world to be a place of loving relationships. What God introduced through His Torah to Israel is a harmonious life that comes from a knowledge of God and His ways. To be separate from God is to live with a false sense of values and even a false sense of reality. “We know that…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and that “he (satan, the evil one) is a liar and the father of all lies” (8:44). Without objective truth, we can only base our lives on subjective expectations of what truth is. What is there to rely on then really? The world can have no real lasting assurance of hope without God. Religions are designed to answer the questions of life and death and to explain the affairs of nature and of mankind. But they are only suppositions and wrong ones at that without a true knowledge of God. Have you ever believed something “religious” that you later found out wasn’t Biblically correct or true? Many hold onto beliefs that are not Biblically justifiable. It might even mean you are not believing something that is stated in the Bible. The world’s idea of love is often distorted. If you don’t believe me, listen to the words of what are called “love songs.” They’re usually about lost love or about self-centered desire, but not God’s unselfish faithful, holy love.
Moses had said that a man like himself would come one day: “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to him you shall give heed” (Deut 18:15; Acts 7:37). How would he be like Moses? He would be a man who was able to enter into God’s presence and not die, and who could hear from God and would teach the people the ways of God so as to establish them a holy people unto Himself. While Moses may not have really known exactly in what ways this Man would be like him, we do see that both fasted in God’s presence 40 days, both went up on a mountain and were “transfigured” so that they glowed with a light from being in God’s presence. Both could be in communication with God that no one else was able to. Yeshua was the prophesied one, the Anointed One, the Messiah came and made a way through His death and resurrection for those who were far off and oblivious of His glory, to be able to come near to God and enter into His love for them.
The terms “far off” and “brought near” are used often in the Old Covenant. When someone attached themselves to Israel they were said to have been “brought near” after having been “far off.” God sees us either with Him or not with Him; near or far. We hear it in Yeshua’s words, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23). It seems to be either/or from God’s perspective — no middle ground. It does bring to mind an alarming question as to whether there is a place in the Kingdom for lukewarm or compromising “believers,” especially since Yeshua did make that comment as mentioned above, saying “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit [the margin says vomit] you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16.) Lukewarm believers make Yeshua throw up! Oh dear.
But how wonderful that the way is open so that we can all know Yeshua’s love and His shalom. If we as Believers in Him are not living in His shalom, His peace, it is because we are distracted from living in and for Him. To the extent we are “in Him” we will have peace. And His joy: “In His presence is fullness of joy!” (Psalm 16:11). His life becomes our energy source, our life: “In Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). And we become lovers — of God and of others. We may even love ourselves in a way we have not before, in a wholesome, responsible, self-respecting way.
His purpose, as we know, was and is to always bring us into His love, and to bring to an end the breach of love that was introduced into creation by the devil. The work of Yeshua on the cross in His supreme act of love destroyed the power of the devil. Through His death, Yeshua broke down the middle wall that kept people separated from God and from each other. We’ve talked about this barrier of the dividing wall no longer existing between those who are His before but it bears repeating especially as there may be days of “cold love” ahead (See Matt. 24:12). There were actual walls that existed in the Temple that divided people which Paul references here in Ephesians 2. Paul is also talking about spiritual and social walls that existed which Jesus’ death and resurrection rendered no longer effective for those who believe in Him. Those would be the:
- curtain or “veil” that kept men out of the Holy of Holies and God’s presence,
- wall between the inner and outer courts in the Temple giving access to God to everyone,
- wall between the court of the Gentiles and the Jews in the Temple, making them “one new man” (Eph.2:15) or “one new and unique unified humanity,”
- wall that divided the women from the men, making God equally as accessible to women as to men,
- and walls of status of any kind, be it social, economic, racial, ethnic, etc. as a basis of who is acceptable and who is not.
What Yeshua’s atoning death did was to obliterate, invalidate, remove, cancel, disallow, and nullify any division of any kind between those who are called into His Kingdom. This “unity” or “oneness” isn’t just about spiritual issues. Rather, any separations or alienations that might arise because of political, intellectual, social, psychological or physiological matters have no place in His Kingdom. Whatever divisions exist among people, be they race, ethnicity, color, beliefs, culture, insiders, outsiders, primitive or progressive, sophisticated or peasant, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, for Kingdom people, those identifications are no longer cause to separate us or to think less of someone because we are all reconciled to God on an equal basis! In Him we are one with each other. We all together constitute His body, each part necessary and valuable. We
“What Yeshua’s atoning death did was to obliterate, invalidate, remove, cancel, disallow, and nullify any division of any kind between those who are called into His Kingdom.“
are all made equally acceptable to God on the basis of Jesus’ atoning death. Though we may see things differently or be different from one another in many ways, we will no longer allow those differences to be cause for division, antagonism, alienation or separation. We will love one another, period. Our basis of acceptability is the Blood of Messiah for those who are His, nothing else has any legitimate basis for inclusion or exclusion.
To say you believe in Jesus, is to agree that He abolished every division known to mankind that keeps us from loving Him and one another. But far more importantly, that He abolished everything that kept us from receiving His abounding, penetrating, fully embracing, wholeness-sustaining, life-infusing, heart-healing love!! Because of the Blood of Yeshua, God established a Kingdom in which animosity and rejection do not exist. All division and hostility, all segregation, every dislike or disdain of others, any sort of ghetto of geography or mentality, every sense of requirement for sameness in order to be included, is abolished. All who claim Yeshua as their own, when we know His love for us, must also honor His love for all whom He calls His children. We are one with all other persons in the One New Humanity that populates the Kingdom of God. No longer can we boast in (or secretly consider) our specific separateness as ‘better-than.’ We cannot justifiably call Jesus “Lord” unless we mean by Lord that He has made all of us who call Him Lord one together in Him.
To say He is our peace is to say we are fully reconciled to all others in Him. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Eph 2:4). Now we can see all of our varied differences as the manifold images of the God in whose image we are all created. Now the differences are enriching and cause to give Him glory as we see in Him how creatively different we all are. Now we can embrace the differences as they are all sanctified in Him. Since we are all being conformed to His image, I wonder how all the multitude of differences that He did create in us reveal the manifold facets of Yeshua Himself to us. God created us to be unalike; each one of us unique, even down to our fingerprints. Amazing God! How fascinating to consider Him this way.
The Kingdom of God isn’t just a different lifestyle, it is the re-establishment of God’s perfect goodness in the lives of those who forsake the unloving ways of the world, and rest in His resurrection power in us to keep us in His love. How great is our God! I’m forever grateful to be His. And to have you share Him with me. I so look forward to meeting you who read these articles in heaven one day. Be sure to look for me, okay?
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Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.