During Jesus’ life, He spoke to His disciples on many occasions and about many things. His words are recorded in the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – and the beginning of Acts. Four of His instructions are particularly important, and in English they are identified by words that begin with the letter “C.” I like to call them “The Four Great C’s Of Jesus.” Last month we looked at His Great Commission and His Great Compassion. This month we’ll conclude by considering His Great Commandment and His Great Calling. HIS GREAT COMMANDMENT It is very interesting that, according to Jesus, one of the main ways we are to witness to the world is by loving one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35 NIV). Jesus affirms that the way we love fellow Christians is a significant part of our testimony! It appears that before sending us to love those in the world, Jesus would first have us learn to love our brothers and sisters! Sadly, as we look back on Church history, we see many instances where this love was sorely lacking, with many bitter divisions and unnecessary church splits. Perhaps even in our own life history we have to admit that often we have fallen short of expressing Jesus’ Great Commandment to love fellow believers.
An expert in the Law once asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, and Jesus agreed with the Old Testament that in order to do so he had to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27; Dt. 6:4-5; Lev. 19:18). If we truly love God it will naturally follow that we also love our neighbor. So Jesus gives the world a “test” to evaluate whether we are truly His disciples: it is whether we show love for one another. The disciple John said, “We love because He first loved us. if anyone says ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar … Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn. 4:19-21). This Great Commandment to love our brother is based on God’s love for us and our love in response to Him.
True love is always willing to forgive: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). If we want to know more about expressing true love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 explains it to us: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
But Jesus goes even further! in Luke 6:27-29 He challenges us: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.” Whether we regard someone as a brother or an enemy, we cannot escape loving him if we are following our Lord’s Great Commandment!
HIS GREAT CALLING
It should be evident by now that before we can even hope to obey the other Great C’s, we must first come to Jesus in response to His Great Calling. Only if we follow Him can we hope to carry out His Command, show His Compassion and obey His Commission! Nineteen times in the new Testament we find Jesus saying to someone, “Follow Me” (Mt 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21; Mk. 2:14, 8:34, 10:21; Lk. 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 18:22; Jn. 1:43, 10:27, 12:26, 13:36, 21:19, 21:22). Some did respond to His Great Calling, but others made excuses, put it off or just refused. In Jesus’ prayer to His Father He expressed His deep desire: “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am” (Jn. 17:24). do we understand this? It’s easy to grasp that we want to be with Jesus, but do we realize that He wants us to be with Him? Jesus calls us – not just to rescue us, equip us and send us – but first of all because He wants us to be with Him! There are some people in our lives who are very dear to us and whose company we deeply enjoy – well, that’s how Jesus feels about us! In John 14:1-4 we read that Jesus is right now preparing a place for us, like a Bridegroom preparing a house for His bride. And He promises this: “I will come back and take you to be with Me.”
How are we responding to His Great Calling? It’s a great calling, but not an easy one. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24). Paul said we are “called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7) – called to live apart, a different sort of life, a holy one. In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus said: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” And in John 7:37-38 He said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” Jesus calls us to satisfy our deepest longings and quench our deepest thirst.
Fundamentally, His Great Calling is to follow Jesus, to be with Him. As a child imitates his parent, and as a disciple imitates his master, so we are called to imitate Jesus. We have already noted that in Mark 6, before Jesus sent the disciples out, He first called them to Himself. Only after they had been with Him did He commission and send them out. Only after we spend time with the Lord will we be enabled to love (Great Commandment), to serve (Great Compassion) and to reach others (Great Commission).
One day we will know in a glorious way what it means to actually be with Christ. But today we can be with Him as we speak to Him in prayer, spend time in His Word, meditating on who He is, what He said, how He lived, and listening to His “still, small voice” or “gentle whisper” (1 Ki. 19:12). It involves becoming aware of God’s presence with us at all times, not just when we are serving Him.
A FINAL OBSERVATION
Many will say that the correct order in which I should have written these four Great C’s is exactly the other way round: The Great Calling, The Great Commandment, The Great Compassion and The Great Commission. The reason I wrote them in the order I did, is because I believe each one leads progressively deeper into the heart of God. It is easy to understand the Great Commission because it is something to do! Even the Great Compassion is something we can roll up our sleeves and do, though it requires more humility and care.
But we struggle with the Great Commandment because it involves re-orienting our attitude to become more like the Lord – not just in what we do, but in our heart towards our brothers and sisters, and especially towards God. Don’t we all find it a bit hard to trust Him, to love Him without reservation, and to believe Him fully?
And as to the Great Calling, who of us is able to follow our Lord’s footsteps? Don’t we find it incredibly difficult to quiet our hearts and minds in His presence? Must we wait till heaven before we truly surrender to Him? Who is equal to the challenge to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15- 16)? This is the Greatest Calling we’ll ever receive! “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! … now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn. 3:1-2).
We should never give up. We may not attain to the fullness of these Great C’s, but we can share Paul’s conviction when he said, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). The Great C’s show us what our Lord wants His disciples to do, and what He wants His children to become. And we can be sure that He won’t stop working on us until He has formed Jesus Christ in us.
By Andrew Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org