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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
LOVE.—In the word ‘love’ is concentrated, we may say, the essence of the Christian religion. It is love that is the outstanding feature in the revelation Christ has given us of the nature of God, love that is the controlling power in the life of the Son who claimed that he that had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9). On the two commandments to love God and to love our neighbour, Christ declares that all the Law and the Prophets hang (Matthew 22:40). In the commandment to love one another as He has loved them, He sums up the new law which He lays upon His disciples, declaring that by their fulfilment of it the faithfulness of their discipleship shall be known (John 13:34 f.). We propose to exhibit from different points of view the place which love holds in the doctrine of Christ.
1. The love of God for man.—It is certainly true, as has been pointed out, that Christ does not, in the Synoptic Gospels, speak directly of the love (ἀγάπη) of God. But if He does not thus expressly predicate love of God, it is because He has already endowed Him, as subject, with this love in the highest degree. The doctrine of the Fatherhood of God, which is the foundation of the whole gospel of Christ, contains within it the fullest recognition of the love of God. If the Apostolic writers of the NT expand with greater fulness the doctrine of the Divine love, they are only making explicit the truth involved in the assurance of the Fatherhood of God set forth on every page of the Synoptic Gospels. The God whose love is the constant theme of St. Paul’s preaching is the Father-God of Jesus Christ (so H. Holtzmann interprets the Pauline formula ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, Neutest. Theol. i. 171). In the one word ‘Abba,’ which Christian lips have learned to repeat after the Master, there lies to St. Paul the assurance of the Divine love which can banish the old feeling of bondage and inspire the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15). The Johannine doctrine that God is love (1 John 4:8) is but the statement in abstract terms of the truth to which Christ has given concrete expression in the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. For it is the love of God that Christ will express by this name which is so constantly on His lips. He speaks of God not only as His own Father (‘My Father’), or as the Father of those who are members of the Kingdom of God (‘your Father’), but as ‘the Father’ absolutely (Matthew 11:27, Mark 13:32, Luke 11:13). The title suggests more than the relation in which God stands to mankind as their Creator. In Matthew 5:44-48 Christ urges His hearers to become God’s sons by showing a love like to that of their Father in heaven, ‘for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ Did Fatherhood mean merely Creatorship, there could be no question of becoming the sons of God. All men are God’s creatures. The fact that Christ speaks of our becoming God’s sons, proves that He is using the terms ‘Father’ and ‘sons’ in an ethical sense. By Fatherhood He indicates the love which God cherishes for men, by sonship the love by which they may prove themselves like in character to this Father whose nature is love. This love suggested by the name ‘Father’ is the very essence of the Divine nature. It is not merely one among the various attributes of God. It is the supreme and dominating element in the Divine character. It is in it that the Divine perfection lies; and when Christ urges us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48), it is evident from the context that it is of the love of God that He is thinking, a fact recognized by Lk., who substitutes ‘merciful’ for the ‘perfect’ of Mt.’s version (Luke 6:36).
This love of the Father in heaven is the foundation upon which the gospel of Christ rests. It is all-embracing. God is the Father not only of those who are members of the Kingdom of God, i.e. of those who by the love which animates them prove themselves to be His sons (Matthew 5:45), but of all men. The evil as well as the good, the unjust as well as the just, are the objects of His love (ib.); and if the facts to which Christ refers, in this connexion, in proof of the universality of the Father’s love, do not go beyond such natural blessings as the sunshine and the rain, that is explained on the ground that these blessings require for their appreciation no special receptivity on the part of those who enjoy them (Beyschlag, Neutest. Theol. i. 81). The Father cares for all. Each individual is precious in His sight. ‘It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish’ (Matthew 18:14). The very hairs of our head are all numbered (Matthew 10:30). There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10). In the fact of God’s Fatherhood there lies the assurance that He will certainly give good things to them that ask (Matthew 7:11; Matthew 18:19), and that He will welcome the penitent sinner who turns to Him (Luke 15:11-32). It is the Father’s good pleasure, Christ assures us, to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32), that greatest of all blessings, to obtain which a man might well be willing to sacrifice everything else (Matthew 13:44-46); and with it He gives us all such material blessings as He sees to be necessary for us (Luke 12:31, Matthew 6:33). When we thus gather together the various utterances of Christ with regard to the God whom He reveals to us as Father, when we think of the assurance that name breathes of bountiful providence, of watchful care, of forgiving love, when we remember, above all, how Christ points to the Father’s unfailing goodness towards the undeserving as an instance of the Divine perfection, we must confess that though the Synoptic Gospels contain no direct mention of the love of God, the Being whose character the Saviour seeks to reveal to us by that name ‘Father’ is one whose very nature is love.
In the Fourth Gospel it is the same representation of the nature of God that meets us. Here, too, ‘Father’ is the favourite designation. It has been questioned, indeed, whether the title ‘Father’ has the same significance in the Fourth Gospel as in the Synoptics. H. Holtzmann (Neutest. Theol. ii. 433 f.) maintains that in the constantly recurring designation of God as ‘the Father’ there is always either an express or a tacit reference to the Son. [For a full discussion of the use of the word ‘Father’ in St. John, see Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, pp. 29–34]. But there are occasions on which we feel that the title is used in a manner which suggests a reflexion on the love of God quite in the manner of the Synoptics, as when Christ says to the disciples that whatever they shall ask the Father in His name He will give (John 15:16; John 16:23), or when He tells them that He does not say that He will pray the Father for them, for the Father Himself loveth them (John 16:26 f.). And in any case the question of the significance attaching to the title ‘Father’ in the Fourth Gospel is of minor interest in our present inquiry, since that Gospel contains many express declarations of the love of God, the absence of which makes the question of the significance of that title in the Synoptics matter of importance. These express references to the love of God in the Fourth Gospel occur specially in connexion with that aspect of the Divine love which we proceed to consider under the following head.
2. The love of God for man as manifested in Christ.—The highest proof of the Father’s love is given in the mission and Person of the Son. This aspect of the Divine love, which is emphasized in the Fourth Gospel, is not unknown in the Synoptics, though it is rather implied than expressed. If the love of the Father is manifested in the bestowal of the Messianic Kingdom (Luke 12:32), that Kingdom which has been prepared for His children from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34), and which is now about to come with power (Mark 9:1), then the sending of the Son (Matthew 10:40; Matthew 21:37) to inaugurate the Kingdom must in itself be an evidence of the love of God. All things are delivered unto the Son of the Father, and He alone can reveal the Father to man (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22). And this revelation is not confined to His preaching. It embraces the whole of His Messianic work. That work was from beginning to end animated by the spirit of love. He pointed to His works of healing as proof that the Messianic era had arrived (Matthew 11:5; Matthew 12:28). He described His daily work on one occasion as ‘casting out devils and doing cures’ (Luke 13:32). He called to all who laboured and were heavy laden to come to Him and He would give them rest (Matthew 11:28). As He had assured men of the forgiving love of God, so He declared that He came not to call the righteous but sinners (Mark 2:17), and on occasion announced the forgiveness of their sins to those who approached Him (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:47 f.). His whole ministry was one continual mission of love, culminating in the willing sacrifice of His own life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). If we look for the revelation which the Son gives of the Father, not only to His preaching but to His Person and work, then we must admit that that revelation is one which confirms at every point the assurance of God’s boundless love for man conveyed by the gracious title by which Christ designates Him.
But this aspect of the matter is not emphasized in the Synoptics as it is in the Fourth Gospel. Here the mission of the only-begotten Son for the salvation of man is expressly cited as a proof of the vastness of the love of God (John 3:16 f.); and whatever question there may be as to the metaphysical relation suggested by that word ‘only-begotten,’ there can be none as to the depth of the love involved in the sacrifice of the Son so designated. We may note not only the depth but the wideness of the love here proclaimed. God gives His Son for the salvation of the world. This wider outlook in connexion with the work of Christ is characteristic of the Fourth Gospel (O. Holtzmann, Johannesevangelium, 49 f., 80 ff.). Christ is the Saviour of the world (John 4:42), the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He speaks to the world (John 8:26), gives His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51), is the light of the world (John 9:5, John 12:46). Into this world burdened with sin (John 1:29) and animated by a spirit of hostility to Himself (John 12:31, John 17:14), God in His infinite love has sent His Son for its deliverance (John 3:17). Throughout the whole Gospel there is far more prominence given than in the Synoptics to the fact that Christ has been sent by the Father (John 5:37, John 7:16, John 8:16; John 8:28 etc.). He repeatedly refers to Himself as Him whom the Father hath sent (John 5:38, John 6:29, John 10:36, John 17:3). He is not come of Himself (John 7:28), but is come in the name of His Father (John 5:43) from whom He has come forth (John 8:42, John 16:27, John 17:8). Not only does the Son, as in the Synoptics, claim to reveal the Father as none other, He asserts that He is in the Father and the Father in Him (John 10:38, John 14:10; John 14:20, John 17:21; John 17:23). He and the Father are one (John 10:30, John 17:22). The words that He speaks have been given Him by His Father (John 7:16 f., John 12:49 f., John 14:10; John 14:24, John 17:8). The works that He does are the works of His Father who dwelleth in Him (John 14:10). He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father (John 14:9). As it is love that has inspired the Father in the mission of His Son, so it is love that is the animating principle in the life of the Son who is one with the Father—love to the Father on the one hand (John 14:31), and love to His own in the world on the other (John 13:1, John 15:13). As the Father has loved Him, so He has loved His disciples (John 15:9). He sets His love before them as an example, and bids them love one another as He has loved them (John 13:34, John 15:12). The highest proof of His love is given in His death (John 10:15, John 15:13). The Son lays down His life willingly in obedience to the commandment of the Father (John 10:17 f.). For this the Father has given the Son (John 3:16 ἔδωκε, if not to be restricted to the giving to the death, may be taken, in view of John 3:14, cf. John 12:32, to include this reference); and the result will be the consummation of the gracious purpose which animated the Father in the giving of the Son. The cross will become the centre of attraction. Through it Christ will draw all men unto Him (John 12:32, John 8:28, John 11:52, cf. John 10:15 f.), and gain the victory over the prince of this world (John 12:31). Thus will the love which impelled the Father to the sacrifice of the Son gain the end it seeks to attain, man’s deliverance from the destruction which threatens him, and participation in the blessing of everlasting life (John 3:15 f., John 6:40).
Such is the aspect under which the love of God is presented in the Fourth Gospel. It is in the Person of Christ that we have the full and complete revelation of that love. He is God’s love incarnate. The Prologue gives the keynote to the whole Gospel. Christ is the Word become flesh, the perfect revelation in human personality of the Divine nature. He is the only-begotten Son (or only-begotten God, if we adopt the reading θεός instead of υἱός), who has declared the Father to us (John 1:18). With God in the beginning (John 1:2), He was made flesh, and dwelt among us (v. 14). The glory that we behold in Him is a full revelation of the Divine glory, for His relation to the Father is that of an only son who receives the whole of his father’s inheritance (ib.). And that glory is the glory of one who reflected in His own person the Divine love, who was full of grace and truth (ib.), and of whose fulness we have received, in ever increasing measure, participating in the grace which flowed from Him.
3. The mutual love of God and Christ.—The words ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ as applied by Christ to God and man in their relations to one another have, as we have seen, an ethical significance. It is by His love that God proves Himself the Father. It is by exhibiting a love like to that which God displays that man becomes the son of God (Matthew 5:45). The terms do not lose their ethical content when used to describe the relation in which God and Christ stand to one another. The God whom Christ revealed to men as ‘the Father’ He had known first of all as His own Father. Such He had felt Him to be from His childhood (Luke 2:49). So He addressed Him in prayer (Matthew 11:25 f., Mark 14:36, Luke 23:46); so He spoke of Him to others (Matthew 10:32 f., Matthew 11:27; Matthew 18:19; Matthew 18:35, Luke 22:29). He knew Himself to be in a special sense the object of the Divine love. He had been anointed of the Spirit for the performance of the work for which He was sent (Mark 1:10, Luke 4:18-21), and endowed with a power whereby He might triumph over every hostile influence (Luke 10:19; Luke 11:20). In a remarkable utterance (Luke 10:22, Matthew 11:27) Christ describes the intimate relationship in which the Father and He stand to one another, ‘All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth who the Son is but the Father; and who the Father is but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.’ The mutual knowledge which Father and Son have of one another is based upon that mutual love indicated by the terms Father and Son. Christ claims to be able to reveal God in His character of Father (τίς ἑστιν ὁ πατήρ) as no one else, for none can have such knowledge of the Father’s love as the Son, who knows Himself to be in the supreme degree the object of that love (Mark 1:10), and can say of Himself that all things are delivered unto Him of His Father, i.e. all things necessary for the fulfilment of the Father’s gracious purpose. And the Father can reveal Himself thus to the Son because of the love with which that Son responds to His love, and the meekness and submission with which He surrenders Himself to the Father’s will (Matthew 11:29, Mark 14:36). It is evident that in this striking word of Christ’s regarding the mutual knowledge of the Father and the Son, the words ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ are not mere names to denote the persons concerned, but are used to suggest that mutual love upon which the knowledge is based. And indeed all through the Synoptic Gospels there is always a suggestion of this relationship of mutual love in the manner in which God and Christ are spoken of as Father and Son. Whether, when Christ is spoken of in the Synoptics as the Son of God, there is more than this ethical relationship implied, is a question upon which there is difference of opinion. But it is admitted, even by those who attach a deeper significance to the designation, that, in the first instance at any rate, it has an ethical content, and that, when Christ is called the Son of God, whatever more may be implied, so much in any case is suggested, that on the one nand He is the supreme object of the Father’s love, and that on the other He exhibits in His Person in its perfection that loving obedience whereby man may become the son of God.
In the Fourth Gospel the references to the love of the Father and the Son to one another are more frequent and more express. Christ is the only begotten Son (John 3:16), loved by the Father before the foundation of the world (John 17:24), and now returned to the bosom of the Father (John 1:18). He and the Father know one another intimately (John 10:15). The Father loves Him, and has given all things into His hand (John 3:35). As in the Synoptic account of the announcement at the Baptism, Christ is called the beloved Son in whom God is well pleased (Mark 1:11), so in Jn. the love of the Father is occasionally represented as being based upon the Son’s obedience to the Father’s commandment (John 15:10) and willing sacrifice of Himself (John 10:17). The Father never leaves Him alone (John 16:32), for He does always those things that please Him (John 8:29). Because He keeps His Father’s commandments He abides in His love (John 15:10). No higher estimate can be given of the Saviour’s love for His disciples than to say that He has loved them as His Father has loved Him (John 15:9), nor of the love of God for believers than to compare it to that of the Father for the Son (John 17:23). Sometimes the love of God for believers is represented as based upon that of the Father for the Son (John 14:21; John 14:23, John 16:27).
And as the Father loves the Son, so the Son loves the Father. He alone has seen and known the Father (John 3:11; John 3:32, John 6:46, John 7:29, John 8:55, John 10:15). He does nothing of Himself, but only what He seeth the Father do (John 5:19). He speaks only as His Father hath taught Him (John 8:28, John 12:50). His meat is to do the will of Him that sent Him (John 4:34). It is love to the Father (John 14:31) no less than love to His brethren (John 13:1, John 15:13) that is the motive that animates Him in the fulfilment of His vocation. In virtue of the love which unites them one to the other, each may be said to be in the other, the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son (John 10:38, John 14:10; John 14:20, John 17:21; John 17:23). They have no separate interests. Whatever belongs to the one belongs to the other (John 17:10). The Father and the Son are one (John 10:30, John 17:22).
4. The love of man for God.—There is comparatively little under this heading to be found in the Gospels. It is true that Christ has Himself given as the first commandment of all, that which enjoins the love of God with the whole heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:28 ff.), and in the same spirit in the Fourth Gospel He finds the final explanation of the unbelief of the Jews in their lack of this love of God (John 5:42). But so far as the former of these passages is concerned, it is evident that Christ’s answer to the scribe is purposely couched in language borrowed from the Old Testament; and it is a noteworthy fact that at other times, when He has no occasion to conform to OT modes of expression, Christ does not give prominence to the duty of love towards God.
Ritschl has drawn attention to the fact of how small a part the love of man towards God plays throughout the NT as a whole. ‘Love is reserved as the characteristic of God and God’s Son in the foundation and guidance of the congregation, while of its members faith or trust in God and His Son is demanded’ (Rechtf. u. Vers. ii. 100 f.). B. Weiss thinks that Christ keeps the commandment of love to God in the background, because where the love of God does not awaken such love in return it would be of no avail to demand it (Bib. Theol. of NT, § 25b). Wendt, while recognizing that the idea of love corresponds well, on the whole, to the filial relationship, believes that it is too general, and does not give sufficient prominence to the relation of subordination and complete dependence in which man stands to God. To express the feeling of whole-hearted devotion to God suggested by the idea of love, while at the same time giving full recognition to His infinite love and power, Christ selected the term ‘trust’ (τιστις) as the one most suitable to describe the disposition man should display (Lehre Jesu, ii. 227).
Whatever the reason, we must recognize the fact that neither in the Synoptics nor in the Fourth Gospel, with the exception of the passages referred to, do we find Christ dwelling on the love which man should cherish towards God. But though He speaks of man’s trust in God rather than of his love towards Him, we must not overlook the fact that this trust which Christ seeks to inspire is but love under a slightly different form. It is the response of the human heart to the infinite love of God,—love on the part of man awakened by the love of God, yet humbling itself in the presence of One who, though the Father, is yet Lord of heaven and earth. Without love there can be no such trust as Christ seeks to inspire. The prayer in which this trust finds expression must be the outpouring of a heart full of love to God and of zeal for the establishment of His Kingdom. The righteousness which becomes the members of the Kingdom must be righteousness not of outward conduct alone, but of a heart which takes delight in the performance of the Divine will. The believer is to seek first the Kingdom and the righteousness of God (Matthew 6:33), to have his heart fixed on the heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:21), to be filled with whole-hearted devotion to the service of God (Matthew 6:24), and to renounce, no matter at what cost, whatever may hinder him in the attainment of the great end set before him (Mark 9:43-48, cf. Matthew 13:44 ff.). Though there may be little explicit reference in the teaching of Christ to the love for God which man is required to cherish, we feel that in the case of the believer no less than in that of Christ Himself, it is the source from which springs all the strength for the performance of duty and the endurance of suffering, and that, just as Christ accounted for the unbelief of the Jews by the utter lack in them of this love of God (John 5:42), so, if we trace back to its beginnings the faith which the gospel inspires, it will be found to issue from the love to the Father who has revealed Himself in Christ.
5. The love of man for Christ.—Of love for Christ there is almost no mention in the Synoptics. In one utterance, indeed, Christ requires His followers to love Him more than their closest earthly relatives (Matthew 10:37). But the purpose of that saying, as is proved by the parallel passage, Luke 14:26, is not so much to insist on a personal affection for Himself as the condition of discipleship, as to emphasize the supreme worth of the good represented by His own Person, compared with which the joys of family life are to be esteemed as nothing. The nearest approach to any reference to love of Himself as a motive for conduct is to be found in those passages in which He puts His own Person in the foreground, requiring of His disciples a readiness to sacrifice themselves for His sake (Mark 8:35; Mark 10:29), and attaching high importance to the most trivial acts done in His name (Mark 9:37; Mark 9:41). On these occasions He identifies Himself with His cause. When He requires devotion to Himself, it is only another way of requiring devotion to the truth revealed in His Person. Thus He speaks of sufferings borne for His sake and the gospel’s (Mark 8:35; Mark 10:29, cf. Luke 18:29), and of being ashamed of Him and of His words (Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26). In this spirit He welcomed the love displayed by the woman who anointed His feet in the Pharisee’s house, as a proof of the sincerity of the repentance which filled her heart, and of the vastness of the blessings she was conscious of having received (Luke 7:47).
In the Fourth Gospel, where the personal relation to Christ is so strongly emphasized, there is more direct reference to love as the disposition the believer may be expected to display towards Christ. Jesus tells the Jews that if God were their Father they would love Him, for He proceeded forth and is come from God (John 8:42). Of the disciples He says, on the other hand, that the Father loveth them because they have loved Him, and have believed that He came from God (John 16:27). Something is, indeed, still lacking in their love. He tells them in His farewell address that if they loved Him they would rejoice because He said that He went unto the Father (John 14:28). But though their love be not perfect, He can confidently reckon upon it. He would only remind them, as He does more than once in the course of that address, that a true love for Him will manifest itself in the keeping of His commandments (John 14:21; John 14:23 f.). So it had been with His own love for the Father (John 14:31). So let it be with the disciples. Let them prove the sincerity of their love to Him by the loyalty of their obedience. Such a relationship to Himself, love manifesting itself in faithful fulfilment of His commandments, is the condition upon which the giving of the Paraclete is promised (John 14:15 ff.). Where it exists, Christ promises the enjoyment of the closest communion with the Father and Himself (John 14:21; John 14:23). It is quite in keeping with the emphasis that has been laid upon love throughout the Gospel as the relation which must exist between the disciple and Christ, that in the final scene with Peter in the Epilogue He should thrice address to him the question, ‘Lovest thou me?’ (John 21:15-17), as if to suggest that such love is the indispensable qualification on the part of one who would be a true shepherd of Christ’s flock.
In view of these quotations, it is difficult to understand Ritschl’s statement (Rechtf. u. Vers. iii. 560), that, apart from John 21:15-16, there is no reference in the NT to love towards Christ. Certainly it is the case that, for the most part, faith is the usual formula to indicate the relation of the believer to Him. But it is quite in accordance with the general character of this Gospel, with its conception of a mystical union between the believer and Christ (John 15:1 ff.), to use warmer colours to paint the devotion of the believer, and to describe that complete self-surrender to Christ, which is the true relation to Him, as the work of love.
6. The love of man to man.—Alongside of the first great commandment to love the Lord our God, Christ places a second, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Mark 12:31). The high importance He assigned to this duty is evident from the place He gives it alongside of the commandment to love God. ‘There is none other commandment greater than these’ (ib.). Both are ethical in their nature. The ceremonial observances in which Christ’s contemporaries thought to find the fulfilment of this first commandment are never to be allowed to stand in the way of the performance of the offices of love towards our fellow-men. These latter, because they are ethical, are the weightier matters of the Law which are on no account to be omitted (Matthew 23:23). To refuse to support one’s parents, on the plea that one desires to make an offering of the money that might be used for this purpose, is to make a travesty of religion (Mark 7:9-13). The ethical stands above the ceremonial. God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 12:7). The first commandment may be to love the Lord our God, but when it is a question of showing love towards our brother man or performing some act of worship towards God, there can be no doubt which is to come first, ‘Leave there thy gift before the altar, and first go thy way; be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift’ (Matthew 5:23 f.).
In the enunciation of this second great commandment, Christ specifies the love which men are required to show for one another as the love of one’s neighbour. Doubtless the word was suggested by the precept from Leviticus which He quoted, just as the form of the first commandment is based, as we have seen, upon the language of Deuteronomy. When we inquire as to the wideness of the circle denoted by the term ‘neighbour,’ we seem to find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was told, according to Lk., in response to the question that had been put, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29-37). But in its present form that parable gives no satisfactory answer to the question. After telling the story of what befell the traveller, how he was maltreated by the thieves and passed by in his miserable plight by the priest and the Levite, and how at last the Samaritan took compassion on him, Christ asks, ‘Which now of those three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?’ The answer is, the Samaritan; and the conclusion of the parable seems to be that it was the traveller’s duty to love the Samaritan, i.e. that the term ‘neighbour’ is wider than the lawyer who had put the question seemed to imagine, and must be held to embrace any who by their conduct prove themselves worthy of the name, whether they be Jews or not (so Wendt, Lehre Jesu, ii. 268). This is certainly the logical conclusion from the parable as it at present stands, but it is questionable whether this can have been the lesson Christ desired to enforce by it. It starts with the object of proving who is one’s neighbour in the sense of diligendus (Luke 10:29), and ends by proving who is the traveller’s neighbour in the sense of diligens, Luke 10:36 (Jülicher, Die Gleichnisreden Jesu, ii. 596). The nearest approach that it reaches to a definition of the term ‘neighbour’ in the sense required is contained in the ‘Go and do thou likewise’ with which it concludes. The usual method of interpreting the parable is to find the answer to the question in the practical lesson enforced by that exhortation, and to conclude that our neighbour is anyone who requires our help. But in view of the immediately preceding statement that the neighbour of the traveller was the Samaritan who had compassion on him, it seems utterly incongruous to conclude that the design of the parable is to teach that one’s neighbour is not one’s benefactor, but anyone that one can benefit, i.e. in this case that the traveller was the neighbour of the Samaritan. So we can only conclude that Lk. is responsible for the introduction of the parable in connexion with this question of the lawyer’s, and that whatever the original purpose for which it was related, it was certainly not designed to give an answer to the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ in the sense of ‘Who is the person I am required to love?’
But the precise scope of the term ‘neighbour’ in the mouth of Christ is of the less importance, as it is only on the occasion of His interview with the scribe (Mark 12:28-34, Matthew 22:35-40) that He thus defines the limits within which one is to show love towards one’s fellow-men, and there, as we have seen, He is evidently formulating His answer in the language of the OT commandment. In opposition to the narrow sense in which the term ‘neighbour’ was interpreted by His contemporaries, who could add to the injunction to love their neighbour a corollary to the effect that they were to hate their enemy (Matthew 5:43), Christ enjoined a love which was to embrace both friend and enemy (Matthew 5:44 f.). The Golden Rule which Christ has given men to guide them in their offices of love takes us far beyond the circle of neighbours in the narrow Jewish sense. The command runs, ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men (not your neighbours) should do unto you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12). We are to show love to all. ‘Whosoever shall smite thee,’ ‘if any man will sue thee,’ ‘whosoever shall compel thee,’ ‘he that asketh thee,’ ‘he that would borrow of thee,’—these are the phrases with which Christ introduces those to whom He commands His disciples to show love (Matthew 5:39-42). Sometimes He describes them as ‘brothers’ (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:24, Matthew 7:3-5, Matthew 18:15; Matthew 18:21 f., Matthew 18:35), not in the sense of those who are bound to us by natural ties, in which sense brotherly love is practised by the Gentiles as well (Matthew 5:47), nor in the sense of fellow-citizens of the Kingdom of God (so B. Weiss; Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, note on 1 John 2:9), in which sense the word would reproduce in a new form the limitation that attached to the Jewish interpretation of the term ‘neighbour,’ but in the same wide sense as He applies the term ‘Father’ to God. He is the Father not only of the members of the Kingdom, but of all mankind (Matthew 5:45), and by using the term ‘brother’ to denote the objects of our love, Christ will suggest that it is to be a love as wide and all-embracing as that of the Father in heaven, who bestows His bounties on good and evil,—a love not only of those who are members of the Kingdom of God, but of all who have the right to look up and claim God as their Father in heaven (Wendt, Lehre Jesu, ii. 270 f.). The command to forgive our brother his trespasses (Matthew 18:35) is interpreted in the widest sense in Matthew 6:14 f., when, in place of forgiving our brother, Christ speaks of forgiving men their trespasses.
From various occasional utterances of Christ we can form a general idea of the nature of the love which He expects men to display in their relations to one another. Its unselfishness on the one side, and its interest in the welfare of others on the other, are features which continually appear in the exhortations in which He seeks to inculcate it. In illustration of the unselfish spirit which He commends, He urges His hearers to invite to their banquets not their friends and kinsmen who may invite them in return, but the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind, who cannot recompense them (Luke 14:12 ff.). In the same spirit He bids men lend, hoping for nothing (Luke 6:35, according to the translation of μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες best suited to the context). Another aspect of the unselfishness which is characteristic of the spirit of love Christ would instil, is the suppression of those vindictive feelings which are prone to rise when we experience ill-treatment from others. We are required to forgive those who have wronged us, not seven times, but seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21 f.): to be so far from resenting injury we receive from another that we turn the other cheek to the smiter, allow him who would take away our coat to have our cloak also, and go two miles with him who would compel us to go one (Matthew 5:38-42); to love our enemies, and to pray for them that persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Again, this unselfishness will exhibit itself in the absence of all self-assertion or desire to attain pre-eminence among our fellows. Such self-exaltation is characteristic of the scribes and Pharisees (Mark 12:38 f., Matthew 23:5 ff.), and of the Gentiles (Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25). But the follower of Christ, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and who was among His disciples as he that serveth, will be ready to stoop to the lowliest service (Mark 10:43-45, Luke 22:26 f.), and will seek for self-exaltation only through self-abasement (Luke 14:11).
But while love is thus regardless of self, it will ever seek to advance the good of others. It will give readily to supply their demands (Matthew 5:42, Luke 6:30). Nay, it will be quick to anticipate them. It will teach us to put ourselves in their place and realize what they stand in need of. ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). We shall not hesitate to share with them our earthly goods. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is a saying of Christ’s preserved by St. Paul (Acts 20:35) which is not recorded in the Gospels. In the picture which Christ has painted of the Judgment, He claims as offices of love performed towards Himself acts of kindness done to our unfortunate fellow-creatures (Matthew 25:34-40). That is the wise use of our riches whereby we make to ourselves friends of those whom we benefit (Luke 16:9). But we shall care not only for our brother’s worldly interests, but also for his spiritual welfare. We are solemnly warned to give heed lest we cause him to stumble (Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1 f.). It is not the will of our Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones, i.e. the humblest member of the Kingdom of God, should perish (Matthew 18:14). And while we are careful to avoid the censorious spirit which takes delight in uncharitable judgment of the faults of others (Matthew 7:1 f.), we shall still feel it our duty to rebuke our brother when he trespasses, and to endeavour to reclaim him from his sin (Matthew 18:15 f.).
One other point worthy of notice in connexion with the duty of brotherly love which Christ inculcates, is the light in which this duty is presented in view of the love which we experience at the hands of God. At the root of all that Christ says regarding the love which we should display to one another lies the great truth of the Fatherhood of God. That word of St. John’s, ‘We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19), expresses the position which Christ takes up. To forgive another his trespasses and to recompense an injury with kindness, to love one’s enemies and to pray for them that persecute one, appears the height of magnanimity from the standpoint of the natural man. But Christ puts the matter in a new light. He reminds us of the love with which God treats man, undeserving as he is, and of the readiness with which He forgives us our offences. In the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) He exhibits in its true light the conduct of the man who, freely forgiven at the hands of God, yet refuses to forgive his brother who has offended him. And as our indignation burns at the behaviour of the unforgiving servant in the parable, we realize that so far from the forgiveness of those who have offended us being the magnanimous conduct we had imagined, it is a simple duty, the non-fulfilment of which calls for severest condemnation.
In the Fourth Gospel the duty of love to our brother is laid down with the utmost distinctness, though the references are comparatively few. As in the Synoptics Christ had summed up the Law and the Prophets in the Golden Rule to do unto others whatsoever we would that they should do to us, so here He concentrates His ethical teaching to His disciples in the new commandment to love one another as He has loved them (John 13:34; John 15:12). It was a new commandment in the new emphasis with which it was enjoined, in the new place assigned to it as the one principle in which the Law and the Prophets find fulfilment (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 5:17 ff., cf. Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14), in the new sanction it received through the appeal to Christ’s own example. He declares that the keeping of this commandment is the sure test whereby His disciples may be recognized by others (John 13:35). It is by their fulfilment of it alone that they may enjoy such close communion with Him as He enjoys with His Father (John 15:10; John 15:12). He has given them an example in His own Person of the love they are to practise. At the last meal with His disciples, at which this new commandment was given, He had Himself washed their feet, to enforce the injunction to lowly service which He laid upon them (John 13:14 ff.). But this act of condescension on the part of the Master was typical of the self-denying love which He had displayed throughout His whole intercourse with them, that love which reached its culminating point in the willing sacrifice of His life. It is to this that He points when He urges them to love one another as He has loved them. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13).
It has been urged that the brotherly love which is thus commended in the Fourth Gospel falls short of that enjoined in the Synoptics, in respect that it is limited to the circle of the Christian brotherhood. While Christ in the Synoptics commands us to love our neighbour, and insists that the love which He enjoins must embrace not only our friends but our enemies, we read in the Fourth Gospel of a love for one another (John 13:34-35; John 15:12; John 15:17). The reciprocal pronoun points to a limitation of the love to the Christian brotherhood. The Christians are known not by their love for others, but by their mutual love amongst themselves (H. Holtzmann, Handcom. on John 13:13, Neutest. Theol. ii. 388 f.; O. Holtzmann, Johannesevang. 76, 266). And as the love which the believer is exhorted to practise is limited to the Christian brotherhood, so also, it is maintained, is that of Christ Himself, which is held up as an example. The Fourth Gospel and St. Paul both cite the death of Christ as the highest proof that can be given of His love; but St. Paul finds in it a proof of His love for His enemies (Romans 5:6 ff.), whereas the Evangelist adduces it as a proof of His love for His friends (John 15:13). Such love of friends, it is maintained, is the highest love the Gospel recognizes. Of love for one’s enemies it knows nothing (O. Holtzmann, ib. 87, 276; H. Holtzmann, Handcom. on John 15:13, Neutest. Theol. ii. 477).
We must admit that there is so much truth in the contention that, as a matter of fact, the love referred to in John 13:34 f., John 15:12; John 15:17 is a love of Christian brethren for one another. It would be quite unwarrantable to find the novelty of the commandment John 13:34 in the wideness of its scope, to which there is no reference at all in the context. But it is equally unwarrantable to explain that novelty as consisting in the narrowness of the circle within which Christ, in the context, insisted on its fulfilment, as if this commandment to practise brotherly love were an advance upon the old injunction to love one’s neighbour. (So Grotius: ‘Novum autem dicit, quia non agit de dilectione communi omnium, sed de speciali Christianorum inter se, qua tales sunt’; cf. Kölbing, SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.] , 1845, pp. 685–694). It is a mistake to take the commandment in any exclusive sense, as if there were any contrast implied to the wider commandment of the Synoptics. Christ speaks of the love of Christian brethren for one another, either because He had had occasion immediately before to give His disciples a lesson on the manner in which they should be ready to render loving service to one another (John 13:4-17), or because it was natural to look for the display of this spirit of love He would inculcate first of all within the smaller circle of those who stood in close relation to Him and to one another. It is not a question of confining their love to their Christian brethren, but of displaying it towards those with whom they come into closest contact.
In the same way as Christ urges them to show their love to those who stand nearest to them, He represents His own love as issuing in the sacrifice He made for them, His friends. He does not mean that it was because of the love they had shown Him as friends that He responded with this culminating proof of love in return. On the contrary, He calls them friends because they are the objects of His love (John 15:15 f.). His sacrifice has not been evoked by the friendship they have displayed. It is rather their friendship that is the response to the love He has cherished for them, of which that sacrifice was the culminating proof.
While we recognize, then, that in this farewell conversation with His disciples, the love which Christ urges them to display is in the first instance a love of one toward another, we cannot admit that there is any intention on the part either of the Evangelist or of Christ Himself to limit the practice of it to the Christian brotherhood. The circumstances in which the address was spoken sufficiently explain the form in which the commandment is given, and the manner in which Christ’s example is appealed to. The Teacher who had inculcated a love which was to embrace friend and enemy alike might well feel constrained to give His own disciples the commandment to love one another. And He who had given His life as a ransom for many might well remind those who stood nearest to Him that they were among the many for whom the sacrifice was made, and appeal to them to love one another as He had loved them.
Literature.—Sartorius, The Doctrine of Divine Love; Wendt, Die Lehre Jesu, ii.; NT Theol. of B. Weiss, Beyschlag, H. Holtzmann, Stevens; Ritschl, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung; Rothe, Theol. Ethik; Seeley, Ecce Homo, chs. xiii. xiv.; F. W. Robertson, Serm. iv. 222; Law, Serious Call, ch. xx.; Butler, Serm. xi.–xiv.; C. A. Briggs, Ethical Teaching of Jesus, 97, 114.
G. Wauchope Stewart.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Love (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/l/love-2.html. 1906-1918.