Wake Up Call: You are Commanded to Love
“Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.’ ” (Mark 12: 29-31, NLT)
How is it that this is one of the simplest messages in the gospel, yet we still can’t seem to grasp it? Trust me, I’ve done it, and still do. Sometimes, we read certain passages so much that we gloss over them. But we can’t allow our head knowledge to rob us of heart knowledge.
So if you read today’s key verse and immediately checked out, then I need you to reposition your heart, because I can promise you, none of us have figured out how to carry out these commandments
the way Jesus did. No matter how many Sunday school lessons you sat through, no matter how many episodes of VeggieTales you’ve watched, these lessons are never done learning.
We all know the story, but allow me to tell it once more. Religious leaders approached Jesus and as per usual, their conversation became theological. One of the leaders asked Jesus what the most important commandment was to uphold. Jesus answers that the first commandment is to love God above all else, with all that you are. The second is just as important as the first: to love other people as much as we love ourselves. The religious leader agrees with Jesus, saying that these commandments were more valuable to his faith than sacrifices and offerings. Jesus commends him for this sentiment, saying that he is not far from the kingdom of God.
This just goes to show how important these two things are: Love God, and love one another. It matters more to God than all the theology books you can read. It means more than all the worship music you can memorize and play at the drop of a hat. It is more precious than church attendance, offering plates, and full calendars. All of these things are items we prioritize, but today, I want to remind you: Someone already asked Jesus which commands are most important. Jesus already told us what we are to prioritize; we are commanded to love God and then love others. They are both unique and synonymous, and they should be the heart and soul of everything else we do.
This world is dripping with negativity. We don’t have to look far to see this as fact. Flipping on the television or reading the newspaper will prove that. Scrolling through social media or your local community Facebook group will further solidify it. Hate and abhorrence is happening across the world, along the borders of our country, and right outside your front door. Believe me, this devotion is not a soapbox for me to stand on and air my personal, political views. I do, however, want to use these very practical and real situations to encourage you.
As a Christian, your first and only job is to love. There is no better way to please the Father; there is no better way to serve His kingdom. And we’re not supposed to just love a little. Love and defend others as much as you would love and preserve your own heart. Do not allow the polarizing, inflammatory views of a world that so hungrily needs Jesus to dampen the importance of what Jesus told us to do.
First: Love God. It is the best way to understand the lesson, because God is love. Every one of His vast, mighty, and gentle qualities are all grounded and dripping in love. Only His love can teach you how to love wholly. It is above and beyond anything this world can supply. That is why it will take all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength to get remotely close to it. Our love is and will always be imperfect, because our humanity has a way of creeping in, but if we can aspire to make each and every day a pursuit to love God with all that we were created with, it will please God with such passion.
And out of that love and relationship with Jesus, we can then hold up the second end of Jesus’ command: to love others. Loving people is hard. Believe me, I get that. But notice how Jesus never said love the people that are easy to love. He never said love only the people that look like you, love only the people that agree with you, love only the people that speak highly of you. No, he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Meaning, whomever is next to you, regardless of race, theology, personality, or sanity, you are supposed to show them God’s love.
“But Cortney, that’s next to impossible.”
That’s why this lesson is never done, friend. Because our flesh corrupts God’s love and it’s a constant battle within our own free will. That’s why we can’t afford to gloss over these precious verses, full of false confidence that we already know and practice what they say.
Instead, take today to meditate on these well-known truths and ask God how you can better love Him. Take it a step further and ask Him who you’re not loving in your life and how you can love them more like Jesus. Because ultimately, Jesus’ love is contagious and Lord knows, this world could use a whole lot more of it.