What is the core of the Christian faith? I posed this question to the Dental Prayer Fellowship as they gathered for their annual rededication service on the morning of 1st January. Jesus gave us the answer when He answered a query on which was the most important commandment:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28–31 NIV)

This then is the heart of the Christian faith — the twin loves of God and neighbour.

In Singapore, we are committed to productivity and hard work. We often bring this activism into our Christian life as well. Many of us work hard at trying to serve the Lord in church, in our families and in the marketplace. The danger is that we forget why we do the things we do.

Jesus reminds us that all we do must flow out of our love for God and neighbour. We apply the “twin loves” test to all we do:

“I am doing this because it is an expression of my love for God and people.”

If a particular activity cannot pass the twin loves test, maybe we should step back and rethink why we are doing it.

However, we must also bear in mind that our love for God and neighbour is a response to God’s prior love for us. John reminds us in 1 John 4:19,

We love because he first loved us. (NIV)

Love doesn’t begin with us. God is the first mover. He loved us by sending Jesus to die for us on the Cross. He continues to bless us as we journey on this earth until we see Him face to face, when we will enjoy His blessings perfectly in the new heavens and the new earth.

We need to make time to “count our blessings”. If we don’t, we will never fully appreciate how much God has done for us, and how much we owe Him. Without that awareness we will not be able to cultivate the gratitude that is a key wellspring of the Christian life. So, apart from taking time to apply the twin loves test to what we do, we also need to make time to remember God’s goodness to us.

Here then is a possible rule for our lives:

We love God and neighbour in response to God’s prior and continuing love for us.

May this rule guide us as we journey into 2018.

[A variation of this essay was published as Queenstown Baptist Church’s Red Hot Letter, 17 January 2018]