Why, we wonder, when Jesus was asked for the greatest commandment, did he answer with two commandments? Wasn’t it enough to say that loving God is the most important commandment of all? Apparently not, from Jesus’ perspective. I expect that Jesus was all too aware of the human tendency to be “religious” but unkind. As a pastor, I have seen people come faithfully to worship services, invest themselves in the songs and prayers, seeking truly to love God, only to return to their self-absorbed lives. They seem to think that all is well if they love God, no matter how they treat (or mistreat) others. Some of the most pious Christians in churches are often the meanest in their relationships, even with their closest friends and family members.
Jesus reminds us that loving God and loving others are intimately and inextricably intertwined. Yes, loving God is the most important thing of all. But truly loving God will necessarily spill over into your other relationships. In fact, a good measure of how much you love God is to examine how much you love people. You can’t have one without the other.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you loving your neighbor as yourself? How? What keeps you from loving others more consistently? What helps you to love people faithfully, even sacrificially?
PRAYER: O Lord, I do want to love you with all that I am. And I want to love you by loving others in your name. Forgive me, Lord, when I fail to be loving, especially to those who are closest to me . . . my wife, my children, my family, my colleagues, my neighbors. May my love for you inspire and enrich my love for others.
Help me, dear Lord, to love those I find hard to love. You know who they are. How easy it is for me to ignore them, to dismiss them, to judge them, to do anything but love them. Forgive me for failing to act toward them with Christ-like love. Help me to extend your love to them through words and deeds of kindness and compassion.
I am reminded today to pray for your church, Lord, that we might love each other. Sometimes it seems as if your people are meanest to one another. Church disagreements can be so nasty, so unlike what you have envisioned for us. Help your people to love one another, dear Lord . . . starting with me.
(Love Your Neighbor, The High Calling)