We have been studying quite a bit about the greatest commandment:
“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.” Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus says that all the law and prophets hang on this (v40) – so you would think that carrying out this commandment in practice would be of primary concern to disciples of Jesus. Yet I am constantly puzzled to see such fractured commitment to this commandment in its entirety and there often seems to be a perception that we, as disciples of Jesus, are often ‘all talk – no action’. This seems to especially be the case when Christians disagree about decisions made concerning things that are secondary (i.e nowhere near fundamental doctrines like the Trinity, Salvation by Faith, etc.) In the past month, in particular, I have been called a “sell-out” and been accused of “not relying on God” because we will be receiving Canada Summer Job funding this year. I am somewhat upset that Christians would say things like that especially knowing the commitment to the Gospel I have, and after hearing about why we ‘checked that box’. (By the way if you do want to know why we checked that box, please connect with me personally firstname.lastname@example.org.)
God is love; love is defined by Him and is perfect. I think that scripture teaches that when we were made in His image, God imprinted within us a need to experience ‘perfect love’ in order to draw us to Him; we need to love and to be loved in order to be fully human. However, I think it is fair to say that as humans we have failed miserably as both our perception of ‘love’ and how we express it, is one of the most distorted concepts in our society. Love has been reduced to being either a feeling of “butterflies in my stomach” sexual attraction; or a sentiment of deep care that lasts only as long as people live up to our expectations (which may or may not have been realistic or communicated).
This is not the love of the Bible. The Bible describes love in many ways but the most famous is likely from 1 Corinthians.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor 13:4-7
Love is not a feeling, it is a choice to live out 1 Cor 13:4-7 regardless of circumstance you are in or the actions of others. We are to love always, we may not agree, but we are to love. Replace the word “love” with your name. How far through the verse can you get before you start feeling uncomfortable? Me? Not very far.
What does loving “the Lord your God” look like?
For me, my love of God is born out of a response to his love for me, “this is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 Jn 4:19. It is understanding the value God places on me that entices me to love him back. How could I not love someone who stepped down from heaven and constrained his deity so he could fully experience being human and die so my soul could “live life to the full” now, and in eternity? God chose to love me and sent Christ to die for me so that I could spend eternity with him; and in response, I choose to accept his gift of salvation and love him back, not because I have to, but because I want to! His love is not dependent on what I do, but on what Christ has done for me.
But how about when I am struggling to understand my purpose in life? When I see bad things happen to good people? When I encounter people who are judgmental? Am I patient enough to wait and see where “He will work all things together for good” when I don’t understand what is happening or why? Do I allow current circumstances to shake how I perceive my value or self-worth? Am I trying to please God to make him love me more? How about you?
What does loving “your neighbor” or loving people o look like?
I know that my ability to choose to love people is only done well when it is an extension of the love that God has given to me. I can be more patient and kind because it is how Christ treated me and other people he encountered; I can give people a second chance because it is what Jesus has done for me; I can forgive because he has forgiven me. How I love people should not be dependent on what they do, but on the response I have, given what Christ has done for me.
But how about when people disappoint me, am I always kind in the things I say to them or about them? What about when someone offends me and they don’t seem to even notice – do I talk respectfully to them about it and seek reconciliation, or blow up at them, or brush it under the carpet and hold negativity in my heart about them? What do I say to people who think their version of Christianity is better than mine? Or that believe Christianity is not true? Do I treat them with dignity and respect? Do I forgive even when it’s not asked for? Do I write people off as a lost cause? Do you?
I am learning to love God because he first loved me, even though I have done nothing to deserve it.
In the same way I am learning to love people (even those that are hard to love) because God loves them and me, and my action of love should not be dependent on them deserving it, but on how much God values them.
I certainly don’t have all of this figured out, but I do think it is important for me to think about and try to put these things into practice in my home, my community, my church, and my workplace. The thinking part is easy. The putting into practice part is hard.
But hey… choosing to love is rarely easy, but it is good; and doing good is rarely easy!
I would love to hear your thoughts or stories of encouragement, so please leave a comment or come out to camp at Salem Acres and be used by God to transform lives as he loves people and teaches us to do the same! We have lots of summer students and kids who need God’s love and your love too!
Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash
Wendy is an evangelist, storyteller and teacher at heart, who loves to sit down with a cup of coffee and spend time with people,
especially women and youth, to share the immeasurable life Christ has to offer! She grew up in Newfoundland,
but has lived in Alberta since she moved to Edmonton after high school. Wendy and her husband David have 5 children (aged 8-21).
Wendy has taken on the role of Executive Director of Salem Acres after previously being involved for over 15 years as a volunteer.
Wendy is passionate about passing on her faith to the next generation by “loving God and loving people” and is
always excited to hear/share stories about how God is moving in the lives of his people.