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The Discipline of Love

The Discipline of Love

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

I am the recipient of extravagant love – from God and others. I was raised in a single-parent home. My mom was a fantastic person and provided well for my needs. When I was seven years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia and died that same year. By God’s grace, a loving, Christ-following family adopted me. They had limited resources but sensed God’s call to bring me into their home and raise me as their own. I am forever grateful for this family. 

My adopted mother was a godly woman who practiced many of the spiritual disciplines. It was through prayer and worship that she concluded God was asking their family to provide a permanent home for me. Because of their love, I had the privilege of growing up in a loving family.

If we agree that the goal of practicing the spiritual disciplines is to become more like Christ, then we could assume that the result would mean that we love better. The whole purpose for Jesus entering into this world was love. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by quoting the Old Testament command to love God and your neighbor: “All of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands” (Matthew 22:40). To love is central to what it means to be a Christ-follower.

It seems to follow, then, that the very purpose of the spiritual disciplines is love. According to John Ortberg, “The true indicator of spiritual well-being is growth in the ability to love God and people. If we can do this without the practice of the spiritual disciplines, then we should, by all means, skip them.”1 His point is that it is impossible to love as Jesus loved without spiritual disciplines. They train us in Christlikeness. Properly practiced, they lead us into the presence and power of the Savior Himself. We cannot love appropriately without His power compelling us to do so. This is the beauty and miracle of knowing Jesus.

Jesus did not model the spiritual disciplines so we could convince ourselves of our spirituality. He didn’t model them so we could prove our spirituality to others. He practiced them as a means to love. Let’s follow His lead and view the spiritual disciplines as gifts from God that help us love Him and others truly.

Prayer for the week: Loving Lord, thank You for Your commitment to love us. Help us this week to see the spiritual disciplines in the context of love. May they lead us in practical ways to love You and others truly. Amen.

Steve Hoffman is the district superintendent of the Prairie Lakes District Church of the Nazarene (Minnesota, North and South Dakota). 

[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 45.