Dec 29, 2021, 2:49 PM
“Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
I bet your first guess after reading this title would be to conclude that such a question was addressed to a spouse or someone with whom one is very intimate. Well, you are wrong. Jesus asked this question to one of His disciples named Simon Peter to test his steadfastness and whether his intentions were still genuine.
Peter had brazen-facedly denied that he knew Jesus after the latter was arrested and taken to the high priest’s residence for a mock trial. Prior to His arrest, Jesus had predicted that would happen but Peter overconfident, said that would never be the case. When the incident occurred however, Peter began to call down curses on himself and swore vehemently when identified as one of Jesus’ disciples by saying: “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” (Mark 14:72)
After His resurrection, Jesus assembled all of His disciples and solemnly asked Peter – the head disciple who had made that boast that “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33) “Do you love me?”
It was fitting to get the records straight. It was not an easy matter for Peter especially when Jesus had asked him the same question three times. Remorseful, Peter replied; “Lord, you know that I love you.” (John 21:17) Then Jesus instructed him. “Feed my sheep.” (John 21: 17) Jesus had repeated this line three times as if to remind Peter of the need to hold fast to the expectations He (Jesus) had of him. “Feed my lambs.” Take care of my sheep.” Feed my sheep.”
Peter was known for his impulsive character and must have jumped up, without thinking, to say what he had said, only to profoundly regret his behaviour afterwards. Jesus had felt the need to restore him and to forgive him. No accusations were levelled against Peter but deep within himself he must have been dissatisfied with such rash action.
Ruth, Naomi’s mother-in-law was an epitome of love. Both Ruth and Naomi had lost their husbands in Moab country. Life had treated Naomi unfairly. Imagine losing not only her husband but her two sons at the same time. Painful! So, Naomi had resolved to return to her homeland but was hard-pressed to drag her daughters-in-law with her. Halfway on the return journey home, she bid them return to their country and start a new life all over again as it was impossible for her to reproduce husbands for them at her age.
It was a touching scene as she pleaded with them: “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters: I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me – even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons – would you wait until they grew up? No, my daughters, it is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1: 11-13)
Oprah, one of the daughters-in-law, bowed out, took her exit and headed home. She conceded and returned home. Ruth stood firm; her love for her mother-in-law was unshaken. She replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1:16-17a) Such empathy that is born out of true love is a rare phenomenon - particularly between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law.
Ruth displayed genuine and selfless love - the kind that apostle John, the Beloved wrote about in his epistle. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) The attributes of love are echoed in Apostle Paul’s writings. “Love is patient, love is kind. ... it is not self-seeking.... it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, 7, 8)
Indeed, Ruth’s destiny was linked to Naomi’s and whilst in a foreign land her life was renewed by a relationship with a relative of Naomi which qualified her to feature in the lineage of King David through whose genealogy our Lord Jesus Christ was born.
The greatest act of love however was made manifest on the cross where Jesus died for the sins of humanity. “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends.” (John 15:13) The bottom line is that God by His very nature is love. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16b) Love in any relationship is reciprocal. Apostle John underlines that “We love because He first loved us.” (verse 19) In fact, he goes further to say that “If anyone says, “I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (verse 20)
Love is practical, it must be demonstrated - not just merely spoken of. “Whoever loves God must also love his brother [sister].” (verse 21)
God is the very epitome of love. “For [He] God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God’s love endures forever. He is slow to anger and plenteous in love.
Love can be cultivated to become a culture. Each of us must learn to love, which when watered daily, will flourish. Hear what the Scripture says: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my UNFAILING LOVE for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10) Prophet Jeremiah says of Him: “You show love to thousands.” (Jeremiah 32:18)
Bask in His LOVE. OBEY HIS WORD!