By Rev. J. Loren Russell, BA, MDiv.

Matthew 22:37-40
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

My Pastor, Rev. Dr. Booker T. Sears, Jr. of Goodwill Baptist Church always tells us, “If you say that you l-o-v-e and don’t g-i-v-e, you’re just talking j-i-v-e!” This is the last Sunday before the great celebration of the birth of Christ! This is it! Gifts are being prepared. Travel arrangements are being made. Love has been put in place and we have been commanded to share love with our neighbor as we love ourselves.

On this final Sunday before the celebration of the birth of Christ, we light the final of the four Advent candles, the candle of love. This candle represents the love of God which came out of His incredible love, the love that caused Him to send Jesus, His only Son, as the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. John made it clear when he wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

When you look at the word love in scripture, you will find different meanings depending on the context. When Jesus says “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” he uses a Greek word that translates, “agápe.” This word has been defined as the love of God operating in the human heart. It is a love that does not depend on friendship, or because somebody likes you. When you agápe love people, you love them not because you like them, but you love them because God loves them. The next ‘love’ uses the Greek word philia. “Philia” is based on friendship, kindness, and hospitality. “Philia” is were we get the root for our word “Philadelphia” and its definition, “City of Brotherly Love.” Then there’s Éros and Storge. “Éros” is defined as romantic love, the kind off love that results in passion and intimacy. “Storge” relates to the love of parents and children.

Since a God is the source of love, the love He shows to the world by sending His only begotten Son unconditional…, agápe! From this angle it’s clear, when you love God, you love people. In contrast, if you don’t love people, you can’t love God.

This reminds me of the movie Forrest Gump. In the scene where he is in Vietnam and the rain suddenly stops and calm fills the air for all of 10 seconds. Suddenly there is a barrage of gunfire. The troops scramble to take cover, finally running as far and as fast as they could to escape the gunfire. When Forrest reaches safety, he realizes that Bubba, his “closest and best friend,” was not there. He immediately goes back to find Bubba. But going back to find Bubba, he found other soldiers who needed his help. Forrest carried each one of them to safety. When he finally found Bubba, he didn’t throw him over his shoulder like he did the others. He cradled him in his arms and carried him as a shepherd carries his sheep…he carried him close to his heart.What caused Forrest to forgo his own safety to find Bubba. Love! What made him go through the fire to save others? Love! What caused him to rescue Lt. Dan even when he didn’t want to be saved? Love! When you love God, you will love people.

What often puzzles me is the number of those who claim to love the Lord who clearly don’t love people. They avoid, lambast, insult, condemn and certainly don’t give to anybody or anything that they don’t like or that is not like them. They seem to have lost their memory of the love that saved them from their own road to perdition. It wasn’t something they could do for themselves or on their own. They needed, and we all need a savior; “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

Why not give the gift of love to someone before the Christmas celebration? Why not share the love of God with someone you know who is not a part of any church? Why not be like Forrest Gump and carry someone to safety? Why not share with somebody the incredible love of God and bring them to church next Sunday to celebrate the birth of Christ?

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial & Strategic Consulting, and hosts “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM. Listen here or by phone at 626-226-1448. Be sure to friend “Matters of Faith” on Facebook, Twitter @jlorenr, and email us at  

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