In 1980, The Commodores released their 11th album, “Heroes.” The final tract was a song written by Lionel Richie entitled, “Jesus Is Love.” Some warned Richie that the song would ruin his career. Anyone familiar with 80s pop music know how his career turned out.
The sentiment “Jesus is love” is certainly not limited to nor does is originate with a 1980s pop song. The love of Christ permeates Christian theology. Jesus Christ is the central figure to our faith; and His love for you and I is indisputable. Though no Bible verse says, “Jesus is love,” there are verses which specifically say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), and the Bible identifies Jesus as God (John 1:1, 14; 20:20). His sacrifice at Calvary was motivated by the love of God (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
As a child, I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves The Little Children.” As an adult, I’ve enjoyed singing “Faithful Love,” “God Is Love,” “Sweet Adoration,” and more. Jesus Christ taught us to love God, to love our neighbor, to love one another. He not only taught about love, He exemplified it.
However, with the way some speak about Jesus and love, you’d think it was the only topic He ever discussed. It was not. And even when He did speak about love, what He said may be a surprise to some. Consider a few examples:
…love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (Luke 6:35)
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37)
If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
When Jesus speaks of love, it is often in connection with our responsibilities to Him and His word.
Jesus spoke about several topics during His earthly ministry. His first recorded sermon calls upon the hearers to be aware of their sin, to turn away from self and selfishness, to be willing to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ. He talked about hypocrisy, forgiveness, obedience, anxiety, prayer, commitment, deceivers, and obedience among other things (Matthew 5-7).
As we look through the gospels, the most common topics Jesus spoke about during His earthly ministry were:
- the kingdom of God
- His own disciples’ lack of faith
- the wickedness of scribes & Pharisees
- the mission to preach the gospel
- the persecutions His disciples would face
- the cost of discipleship
- the necessity of His death at Calvary
- the final judgment
- the condemnation of the wicked in hell
- God’s law on moral issues (divorce, self-control, helping the needy, idolatry, etc.)
The one dimensional Jesus man claim to serve is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible spoke more about obedience than love. The Jesus of the Bible spoke more about hell than heaven.
A lot of Jesus’ teachings were in parables. As we look through the parables, He addressed various topics. Do any of the parables speak about love? Absolutely. Is love the primary topic of any of the parables? No.
Notice a wide selection of the parables:
- The sower (different hearts & responses to the gospel)
- The mustard seed (growth of faith)
- Leaven, dragnet, pearl of great price (value of the gospel)
- The lost sheep, coin and prodigal son (joy of conversion)
- Unmerciful servant (extending mercy)
- Ten virgins (making preparation for judgment
- Talents (need for us to use our abilities in service to God)
- Good Samaritan (serving those who are in need)
- Rich fool (the folly of serving riches)
We could keep going, but suffice it to say, the Lord focused on a lot more than love. We do the Lord, ourselves and those who we are trying to affect with the gospel a disservice if we overemphasize love. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying Jesus didn’t talk about it or that we shouldn’t either—He did and we should. But, He taught about so much more than love. We need to teach all things Jesus taught (Matthew 28:20); we must declare the whole message of God.
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)