Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test[ him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest[ commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
–Matthew 22:34-40 NET
As a pre-teen kid, one of my favorite toys was my 150-in-1 Electronic Project Kit from Radio Shack. It was awesome! All you had to do was follow specific instructions to attach color-coded wires to the various labeled spring connectors. I could make a basic radio receiver, have a photo-electric cell turn on and off a small lightbulb, or even light up an LED number! The possibilities may not have been endless, but 150 different projects were not the limit!
For many years, I approached discipleship (by which I mean trusting and following Jesus) in a similar way. I read the Bible for the specific instructions. How much Bible study did I need to do? How much time in prayer? How many people should I witness to? How much money should I give?
Okay, I may not have quite put it into those terms, but when I look beneath the surface, I was no different than the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. I acted like if I just attached the right wires to the right places, everything would work! Yet, truth be told, it doesn’t work. In fact, it often can fail spectacularly!
Put simply, we are in a relationship with the God of the universe—and the keyword there is relationship. You don’t have a good relationship if it is simply paint-by-numbers (or follow the instructions by connecting a blue wire to these two connectors). Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean anything goes! But a relationship is about far more than following a set of rules.
When asked by tbe Pharisees what was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus did not give a rule to follow. No, He gave us a test we can use. When things didn’t work right with my 150-in-1 Kit, I found that a voltmeter would often tell me if power was actually going to where I thought it was. In a similar way, love is our spiritual voltmeter. It is the best test to see whether we are in a right relationship with God. We cannot manufacture love by our own effort—it is an overflow of our relationship with God who is love. That is why it is the best way to check whether we are in a relationship with God: When love (as God defines it) is present, then so is a living, growing relationship with God!
So keep discipleship simple! It isn’t about rules. It is about a relationship with the God of the universe that will result in love for God and for others!
ACTION: Read 1 John 4:7-21 and meditate on the love God has shown us. What relationship do you see between God’s love for us and our love for Him and others? How are you doing with your love for God and others?