In recent years, I’ve come to believe that the word “love” is absolutely one of the most overused words in the English language. Throughout the day, you’ll hear people say, “I love that song.” “I love that movie.” “I love ice cream.” “I love...you fill in the blank.” The reality is, when it comes to these inanimate objects, they are merely saying they love something as a figure of speech.
Along the same lines, when people in the church say to me “I love you with the love of Jesus,” sometimes I wonder if they really know what they are saying or is that just another cute cliche.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus revealed to us the two greatest commandments which are “Love the Lord your God with all of 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.”
Now Jesus says some pretty powerful stuff throughout the four gospels, so for him to specifically emphasize that loving God and loving our neighbor are the greatest commandments, that is something we must stop and take note of.
I do not think it was a coincidence that he stated we must love God first before he instructed us to love our neighbor. As Christians, our love for God serves as a foundation for everything; because when you love someone, you hate doing anything that would hurt the one you love. Breaking God’s commands, or in other words sinning, breaks the heart of God. Jesus reminds us in John 14: 23-24 “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
It’s pretty clear here that an expression of our love for God is our willingness to obey His teachings. Now I must point out that God is not looking for people to be legalistic when it comes to His commandments. The Pharisees were some of the most legalistic people you will ever meet, and we see throughout the Bible that Jesus wasn’t the least bit impressed with them. I believe that when Jesus said this, he is saying that God is looking for people who have the desire and heart to obey God’s will. Although God knows His children will not get it right every time, at the end of the day, He is looking for people who will repent when they fall short and will continue to strive to be obedient to His commands. God’s decision to place these commandments in our lives is an act of love towards us, because God understands when we step outside of the boundaries that He puts in place for us, there is danger waiting for us on the other side. On the contrary, when we do obey God’s commands, we will have the opportunity to experience the fullness of what God has for us here on earth.
God sent his own son to die for us, so that we may have eternal life (John 3:16). That is a love greater than anyone would ever know. Once we fully embrace the unconditional love that God has for us, God can begin to do work on our hearts that will allow us to reflect that love towards someone else. God will begin working on the broken places deep inside of our core, where there is anger, unforgiveness, shame, and jealousy and will replace those feelings with peace, compassion, confidence, and joy. The caveat to this is, God can only do this construction on our hearts if we surrender it to Him. There are a lot of people in the church today, who believe in and know God, yet are walking around locked up in bondage because they never surrendered their hearts to Him. Even worse, many individuals don’t even realize they are in bondage.
They have become so familiar with carrying around their hurt, bitterness, and resentment that it has become like a bad smell that they’ve become used to because they are around it all of the time, but those around them are utterly repulsed by the residue of it. People who have not allowed God to heal them in the broken places of their heart will always struggle with being able to love their neighbor. Since their heart has not been healed, that pain or anger inside of them will manifest itself in different areas of that person's life. That’s why we see people in the church who seem like two different people sometimes. One minute they are one of the sweetest people you ever will meet and the next minute you looking at them like someone needs to perform an exorcism on that demon inside of them. That’s why it’s so critical that we allow God to do the work on our hearts. For us to be effective in combating the evil that is running rampant in this world, we must be at a place in our lives where the love of God inside us is so apparent that people cannot help but notice the light of Christ shining through us when they look our way.
This type of love is reflected through us when we:
we don’t think of ourselves as higher than someone else;
when we choose to look for the best in people versus pointing out the worst;
when we are willing to give to others in their time of need;
when we choose to forgive someone when we've been done wrong, even when it hurts;
when we are able to demonstrate compassion and kindness towards people when they are in the valley in life (regardless of if they put themselves in that situation or not);
when we choose to demonstrate love towards a person, not because you expect anything in return, but just because you recognize the God in them.
That’s the love we have been called to share in this world. That's the type of love that can break down walls and can help heal this nation. That type of love starts with us, which can only result from us experiencing the love of God for ourselves. If you haven't joined the Faith on the Journey family yet, subscribe to our mailing list to receive regular devotionals and messages of faith that will help you along your journey.