Jesus’ Demand to Love*
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ demands to love Him (Matthew 10:37 and John 8:42), and to love God with all our capacities (Mk 12:30).
It is rather common for many to think that love is a verb and a commandment since feelings cannot be commanded. In other words, “love must simply be an act of the will or a deed of the body without involving the emotions or affections.”
According to John Piper, the premise of this argument is false: “Jesus does command the feelings. He demands that our emotions be one way and not another.”
Thus, there are examples where he commands us to rejoice (Mt. 5:12), to fear the right person (Lk 12:5), to forgive from the heart (Mt 18:35), and so on.
Our moral inability to produce this love does not remove our gift; it simply reveals our corruption. It should really make us desperate for a new heart – one that only God can give us.
Since Jesus asks us to love Him more than our father, mother, son or daughter, I think that it is justified to conclude that this love is not merely an act of the will but includes deep affections.
The problem is that we cannot produce these affections. It is necessary for the love of God to be poured in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). And to be able to love, it was necessary for Jesus to love us first (1 John 4:19).
Based on the passage in John 14:15 (If you love me, you will keep my commandments) many believe that loving Jesus IS keeping His commandments.
Piper believes (I think correctly): “That is not what it says. It says that keeping Jesus’ commandments comes FROM our LOVE for Him…Love is NOT synonymous with commandment-keeping; it is the root of it. So the love that Jesus demands is something very deep and strong – like the closest family bonds of affection that we have, but greater than that and more than that.”
An excellent clip that asks the question of love is found in the following clip from Fiddler on the Roof. It seems (at least in the beginning) that an attempt is made to identify deeds with love. However, Tevye (Dan was right) pursues the question of love further.
From the clip it is fairly clear that love is supposed to grow as the participants get to know each other more. Our God is also a personal God, and we cannot love Him unless we know him. “God would not be honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing.” Of course our God is revealed to us in the Scriptures and in Christ. It is Jesus who is “fully God-reflecting” and the one who has displayed for us the glory of God.
Analyzing myself I know that many times the deep feelings for God and Christ are lacking. Part of the reason is undoubtedly that I do not know God well. Thus, this is another one of the demands of Jesus which sends me to the Scriptures and on my knees.
I need to learn more about God and I need to pray for more love (Lord I want to love you more), for more genuine affections for the one who loved me first. Since I know that much has been forgiven to me – I pray for a deeper love for Him (see Lk 7:36-48).
May God help me and may God help everyone in our congregation to grow in the knowledge of God, to love Jesus with deep affections, and to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength (Mk 12: 30).
For a more in-depth study on the demands of Jesus for love, see John Piper’s study of demands #5 and #9 in his book: What Jesus Demands from the World:
* This post is mainly inspired from John Piper’s book: What Jesus Demands from the World. All the quotations are from this book.