The title is written like a command, and for good reason!
Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 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 neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
God wants us to love, first and foremost. Before any other subject on which one might debate morality or any other commandment given to us, the most important two are to love God completely and to love each other completely. Why is it then, that so many (even within the Christian community) lose sight of this and choose instead to squabble about issues a long way down the scale of God’s priorities? I am not saying that nothing else matters (that would be foolish), but why do we inflate those issues that matter little to God with our own artificial importance and forget the things He emphasised most? A quick example would be homosexuality; this issue has become a huge sticking point between Christians and non-Christians, and even between and within Christian denominations themselves! And yet how many times is homosexuality mentioned in the Bible? Between 5 and 10……perhaps? And yet after words like “Lord”, “Jesus” and “God”…….”LOVE” is one of the most commonly used words in the New Testament! I have written before on the importance of leaving “self” behind, and this is what we fail to do when we turn away from God’s most important commandments and the teaching of our Redeemer, Christ. To inflate an idea or issue with artificial importance is to put “self” above God. It is to say that we know better, and WE are the arbiters of what is most important. This is unnecessary. God has spelled it out for us and made it perfectly clear in no uncertain terms!
When we love God and love all, we are bound by that love. It is that love by which we are united, as a part of the single whole which is God’s creation. It is utterly beautiful that I am completely distinct from my dog Bella; I am my own being with my own personality and ideas, she has a personality of her own and things she likes to do. And yet we are completely unified, as a part of the same creation. Bound by love, mine expressed through caring for her and petting her, and hers expressed through licking my hand or bringing me her favourite toy when I get home from work. God has granted us this gift of uniqueness, coupled with oneness. It is not a gift we deserve, of course, but then that’s the point. God doesn’t do it because we deserve it, He does it because He loves us and is ALL loving. And we were made in His image! What does it tell us about God’s wish for us, if He is all loving and chose to create us in His image?
You see, it is love and ONLY love which binds us. Not hatred, not jealousy, not agreeing or disagreeing on some particular issue. It is the unifying reality and truth which underlies everything else, like the canvas beneath a lavish watercolour. We sin when we turn from this; even if we love God with all our hearts, we sin if we hate our fellow man. Why? Because we reject God’s nature when we hate! We turn away from His creation, we dishonour his image in which not only ourselves but ALL are created. It is an act which focuses on “self”, whereas love is selfless. When you love God with all your heart, soul and mind, this is a selfless act as we give all of these things to Him. When you love your neighbour as yourself, you give of yourself for the benefit of your neighbour without thought to reward or recompense. This is selflessness.
Love is a more powerful force than hatred, and has the power to overcome and unify in SPITE of hatred. God himself loves every one of us, in spite of the fact that many humans reject God! He extends His gracious offer of salvation even to those who reject and mock him. Again, as beings created in God’s image what does this tell us about His wish for us? Jesus tells us Himself:
Matthew 5:39: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Once again: selflessness. Jesus is telling us here that just because somebody else rejects God in action (or word), that does not give us the excuse to do the same! We are to choose whether to think of ourselves and the unfairness of our treatment, or to think of God and His commandment, as well as the man wronging us and how we could pray for his benefit. God’s commandment to love is untouched by another’s decision to reject it; indeed, we are to uphold it at ALL times.
There is a poem by the American Poet Edwin Markham called “Outwitted”:
“He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!”
God wants us to love, first and foremost.
I fail you many times on a daily basis Lord, not just in this but in all ways. You alone are worthy of all praise, exaltation and worship – and I love you Lord with all that I am. I pray for your guidance and aid in loving everybody I encounter, and indeed all of your glorious creation. I pray this in the name of your perfect Son who laid down His life for the sins of man, Lord Jesus Christ.