The Lord Jesus said that the law of God is fulfilled in two great commandments—love to God and love to our neighbour (Mathew 22:37–39). The balance between these two commandments is one of the most difficult aspects of Christian living. Some try so hard to love their neighbour that they concede too much and offend God by compromising the purity of the truth, of the church, and of Christian principles. Those on the other side of the extreme try to exercise their love to God to such a degree that they offend their neighbour without a second thought. The Lord Jesus tells us to love the Lord with all our heart soul, strength, and mind and—at the same time—to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The problem in doing this lies, in part, in the false assumption that love for God and love for my neighbour are mutually exclusive. I either love God or I love my neighbour, but I cannot do both, the two cannot co-exist. Another common fallacy is that if I love God properly it is OK to offend my neighbour; in fact, some think that if they are not offending others with the truth they are not loving God. The balance of a pure and inoffensive love applies to every area of life.

Love to God may set in place many ambitions for the home or for the family name. But many in trying to reach those ambitions have been so strict and rigid that that they have wearied their children and given them a distaste for Christ and Christianity, forgetting that God requires mercy and not merely sacrifice.

Preachers and pastors can also find it hard to maintain the balance of love. Not content for the truth to be a natural offence to fallen men, they have to present the truth in such a way that they make sure it is offensive. Like Rehoboam, they lay heavy burdens on the people (2 Chronicles 10). Like the Jews in Christ’s day they look for a warrior-Messiah (Acts 1:6) rather than One on whom the Spirit descended in the form of a gentle dove and who came with the perfect balance of “grace and truth” (John 1:17). Let us seek that balance of love to God and a simultaneous love to those around us—a love that respects God and edifies others, a love that has a high view of God’s truth and a desire to present it with grace. Let us pray with Paul that we might diffuse throughout our lives that which the Lord has infused into our hearts—a pure and inoffensive love.

Reading: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”—Philippians 1:9–11