And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25 NKJV)
How often to you get asked that question? Probably not every day. Yet Jesus was at least seen by this man as a teacher or Rabbi. It indicates that he was testing Jesus, but for what reason we do not know. Maybe to catch Him in saying the wrong thing, or just to see what Jesus would say.
Yet most Christians would love to have someone ask us this question. Aside from being scared to death in trying to tell them, we realize that this is a central question to our existence. It is the primary reason that the church is here, to save as many as we can and help them to eternal life. So for someone to come and ask that question, we would think, "Yes! I can try out that evangelism program that I memorized!" But Jesus responds a little differently.
He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" (Luke 10:26 NKJV)
What! Is Jesus crazy? Is He going to give this guy the wrong impression, that you can be saved by following the Law? Where are the four spiritual laws? Where is the Roman road to salvation? Where does Jesus get off messing with established and proven methods of evangelism. Doesn't He know that this man's spiritual life is at stake!
Let's just say, this would not be our approach. The last thing we would tell a prospective convert is "What does the Law say?" But Jesus did know what He was doing. After all, He did say that He came to fulfill the Law, and this Jew was bound by it. Jesus knew what the Law was really suppose to do, what it taught. Jesus always had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. So read on.
So he answered and said, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." (Luke 10:27-28 NKJV)
Well? Are we not going to tell him to pray and be saved? What is this "do this and you will live" business? This makes no sense to say if we are really saved by faith and not by works. Jesus really seems to have this messed up. Or does He?
Matthew reports that Jesus said that if we follow these laws, we will have followed the whole Law. And at the center of these laws is love. Our first love is to love God with all our being. This is a relationship, not a doctrine. The first thing we must learn about salvation is that it is not a set of doctrines to believe in, nor is it a set of rules to follow. It is a relationship with God Himself. It is a devotion of love to God. Not to serve Him from fear or duty, but to serve Him out of a heart of love. That kind of love causes us to follow God and His will wholeheartedly and completely. We are to love God with all our being; all that we are and have.
How do we do that? Check out John 14:21, 23-24; 15:14. We love Him when we do what He commands, and we do what He commands when we love Him. Without one, you don't have the other. In other words, we demonstrate the love we have for God by doing that which He would have us to do and by being faithful to Him.
What we must remember is that it is God's grace and Spirit in us that enables us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It is not something that we do on our own, but by His grace. Yet our love for God is the quality of that salvation. It is the cement that forms a relationship with God through the Spirit. It is what can take us through trials, through storms, through difficult circumstance, and yes, even through death.
But then Jesus also tells us that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. This love which we have received and give to God we must also give to each other. Indeed, it is one of the characteristics of the Christian. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35 NKJV)
This law is the equivalent of the "Golden Rule," to treat others as you would like for them to treat you. When I was a kid, for a while we got this turned around. We thought it was to treat others as they treat you. In reality, that is the world's idea of how to treat others. Revenge is the order of the day. Protecting our rights is paramount. We tend to respond back to others in kind, rather than showing them the love of Christ and treating them as we would like them to treat us.
But if the perfect love of God is residing in our heart, our witness will be His love extended to others. The parable of the Samaritan who takes care of the Jew who was almost killed by thieves when the Jewish priest and Levite would not was to illustrate that our neighbor includes those whom we most hate. Think of the one person or group that you just can't stand, and that is your Samaritan to which you must love just as much as you love yourself.
The implications of this are significant when we think about it. For we know that there are many who call themselves "Christian," yet do not demonstrate the love of God in them. Rather, they seem to hate other groups. It becomes an Us and Them, Jew and Samaritan relationship. Instead of demonstrating the love of Christ, many churches tend to demonstrate the exclusiveness of a club. The real test of a church's relationship with God is how long it takes them to accept and love that person who comes in new into their midst. How long before someone invites them over. How long before someone sits with them and starts up a relationship. How long before the love of God is demonstrated to that individual. Why does it seem that the one place that is often so hard to experience the love of God is in a church? This should not be.
On an individual basis, we also must realize that we are only fulfilling the Law when we have the love of God abiding in our hearts through the grace of Jesus Christ living in us via the Holy Spirit. And if that love is there, that love will shine forth as a light in the darkness. Hide it under a bushel? NO! If the Church is the Church, if we as individuals claim to be followers of Christ, we must demonstrate that to a world hungry for such love. It is the mark of all true followers of Christ.