Let all that you do be done with love. (1 Corinthians 16:14, NKJV)
Love is known by the actions it prompts. Just as love prompted God to send His Son into the world to save us, the motive of love must undergird everything we do as followers of Jesus (1 John 4:9-10). Obeying God’s commands in faith is a full expression of loving God: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). We should not discount obedience to God and love for God – they are bound together. God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This elevates the value of others above oneself, so that we treat them with virtuous attitudes and actions. The things we do have no spiritual benefit without the motive of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). William Barclay called agape (love), “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill.” Love must drive everything we do. Love keeps our hearts right with God, and it keeps us living in the truth of God.
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Notice the traits of this scribe whom Jesus said was “not far from the kingdom of God.” First, he accepted what Jesus said as the truth (v. 32). Secondly, he believed in the one, true God (v. 32). And thirdly, he acknowledged the primacy of loving God and one’s neighbor over giving God offerings without the presence of such love (v. 33). Yet, the man was not in the kingdom, he was near it. Even so, you may believe that Jesus spoke the truth, and that God is real. You may even profess love for God and show kindness to your neighbor. Yet, to actually enter the kingdom of God you must be born again (from above, Jno. 3:3-5). The new birth consists of water and the Spirit, being directed by the Spirit to be baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Until you believe the Spirit’s word and are baptized, you may not be far from the kingdom – but you are not yet in the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 1:13-14).
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; (Psalm 15:1, 3, NKJV)
It is a transgression to speak maliciously against another person. Turning those words into evil actions multiplies the wrong. Evil words and evil deeds prevent fellowship with the Holy One of Israel. Whether the neighbor is an ordinary citizen or a more intimate acquaintance matters not; evil behavior is forbidden. Jesus said to treat others as we wish to be treated by them (Matt. 7:12). Equally destructive is a scornful criticism against a friend. We harm and hinder our fellowship with God when we spread ill reports about others. Israel was warned against circulating false reports, and God promised the destruction of the person who secretly slanders a neighbor (Exo. 23:1; Psa. 101:5). Our moral and ethical treatment of others is a condition for being received into God’s presence (where His perpetual care comforts the weary traveler).