October/November 2017 - Vol. 94
Christian People United in the Cross of Christ

The Christian Ladder of Love:
Mission, Life Together, and the Second Commandment
by Bob Tedesco

Mission and our Life Together
In the Sword of the Spirit we say that we are a community of disciples on mission. We have gone to great lengths to define and describe that mission. I hope to summarize all of that work in a simple statement: “We are called to be a certain people and to do certain things, so that others might have true life now and forever.”

Our life together benefits us, but God’s purpose now is to use us to reach others. Our life together has a number of elements to it: community gatherings, small groups, our way of life, retreats, Lord’s Day celebrations, etc.  A major current continually in motion around the various elements is a mission. A major investment of resources and energy is mission. Again, simply stated: “Community life is to lead to more life!”

More on Mission and the Great Commission
Mission is often questioned and sometimes misunderstood. “Are we just building community?” “Are we just baptizing in the Spirit?” Our mission is a big and enthusiastic “Yes!” to the Great Commission.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore  and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20
The Father wants a family and all of human history will respond to that desire. When that family is completed, human history will end; it’s time of gestation will be completed.

The Bible can be seen as “book-ends” of God’s plan…an Old Testament and a New Testament. There are also two “book-end” commissions. The first is in Genesis: “And God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…’” Genesis 1:28.

The second is the great commission in Matthew 28. So, basically, God’s people have been given two big assignments: 1) “Create the human race” and, 2) Bring the human race to new (eternal) life in Christ.

Community, made up of disciples, supports and cares for the disciples who are “making disciples of all the nations.” There is a synergy of the three: a community of disciples on mission. So, in answer to the earlier questions beginning this section: We are leading people to an encounter with Christ, leading to the Baptism in the Spirit and leading to discipleship in a community of disciples ON MISSION.  Mission, in turn, energizes and builds up community.
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 
– Acts 2:41
The Christian Ladder of Love
Christianity can be described as a deepening progression of love, and the first step is the love of God.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 
– Matthew 22:37
He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
– Matthew 10:37-39
I am defining this second step of the progression (ladder) as the love of self.
And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
– Matthew 22:39
This second commandment as stated presumes the love of self and uses it as a standard for the love of neighbor.

“Love one another”
The third rung in the Christian ladder of love is to “love one another”, and we see love in the body tied to mission.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
– John 13:34-35
“Love your neighbor”
The fourth rung is “love thy neighbor.” Mt.22:39 (above). Here, I am interpreting “neighbor” as the world; all of those folks who are not in the family or the body of Christ. I used to think that neighbor just meant the person in the next house. In context, that would have meant that Jesus was most likely talking about a fellow Jew and a member of the same religious body. But in Luke 10:25-37, he identifies the Samaritans as the neighbor: not a fellow worshipper, not the person next door and not even someone known by the traveler.
And behold, a lawyer stood up and put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down the road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three do you think proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
“Love your enemy”
The fifth and final step of this Christian ladder is “love your enemies”.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
– Matthew 5:44

“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” 
– Luke 6:27-28
I believe that this step is the hardest and is modeled by our Lord when on the Cross he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Notice that love of family is not in this ladder. That is presumed; it is a “given”; it is in our starter kit. We may have to work on it some but the seeds are there.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
– Luke 6:32

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
– 1Timothy 5:8
Notice also that Jesus warned that love of family is not to be used as an excuse.
And another said, ‘I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.’
– Luke 14:20
A great sports leader died recently and his motto was, “Family, faith, football”. He might have been an even greater man if he had gotten the right order.

Mission and Spiritual Growth    
Some comments on the ladders…the spiritual maturity of an individual or a group can be measured by the progress up this ladder. Although we can grow some in each of these areas, the progress is mainly sequential: we can’t love our enemies if we do not love one another. Most importantly here, loving God and loving one another in the body is the basis for evangelism. (John 13:34-35). That is to say, if we don’t have deep love for the body of Christ, we are unlikely to be capable of presenting Christ to the world. Additionally, you could say that the purpose of intentional communities is to get the third and fourth levels to work.

Recently, I have been asking groups to consider the question, “What was the greatest event of the 20th century?” The answers varied according to the size and type of the group. Sometimes the responses would follow an inventions track: the airplane, the car, the computer, etc. Some thought winning World War II had to be it. Most answers were easily defended, and on two occasions I got the answer I was looking for: the Pentecostal outpouring of the early 1900’s. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifting and ministries have laid the foundation for an age of evangelism such as the world has never seen.

As we grow in love of God and one another we are in a position for service, evangelism, discipleship, community building and even worldwide community building (all the nations). In his generous nature, the Lord has filled us with his Spirit and empowered us to do the mission.

A mature disciple grows to love the world and naturally wants to share the Lord and the people that he is a part of with others!

> See other articles by Bob Tedesco

Bob Tedesco is past President of the North American Region of the Sword of the Spirit. He is a founder of the People of God community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and has been one of its key leaders for the past 40 years.

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