I was listening to a sermon today with an old, familiar theme. It talked about when a young lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus immediately answered this question with a really simple response – anyone can do it. It’s just 2 simple things to do – and you have essentially nailed it. 1) Love God with all you got: body, soul, and mind 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
Originally, I thought the order of the commandment didn’t really matter. But in my walk with God, I realize NOTHING is random. As I mediated on this story, I realized that unless you commit yourself to the first command, you are helpless to execute the second command. Only if you truly fall completely, madly, crazy in love with God, can you then love others. I’m sure you have met many people along your path that you think – Lord, only you can love a person like that! When we love God with everything we have, we begin to develop His character and then we are able to love like He does. Loving the unlovable.
How do you fall in love with God like that? It’s not like you rub the magic genie’s bottle. You have to actually put some work into it. You have to get to know Him to love Him. You have to start to become aware of the ways of God, not just His acts. We can read the bible and know the stuff He did. But it’s only when we truly commit to studying His word and seeking a revelation of what it means in our life can we then begin to know him – intimately. Once you are intimate with God – you have “sealed the deal.” Y’all is in love!
Once you fall in love with God – you start to change. It’s like my teenage son. Hygiene is not at the top of his list. But once he got a girlfriend – it was a miracle. Water and soap were no longer something he avoided at all costs. He changed. He smelled good. That’s the kind of transformation that you undergo when you fall in love with God. You start to smell good –really, really good!
This change opens the door to the 2nd greatest commandment –love your neighbor as yourself. Only when you have transformed into someone God and H.S. (my nickname for the Holy Spirit) would want to hang out with, can you start to look outward to others. But that transformation begins with adopting the image that God has of you. Not the image that this world and your life experiences have placed on you with all those ugly labels. You have to come to a realization of who God created you to be.
I found that as I begin to walk closer to God, He started to show me His incredible love for me. Psalm 139 says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. It also says that He knit me in my mother’s womb and preordained all my days!!! I just know that when the angels in heaven look at me; they say the same thing that the writer of Psalm 139 said, God – look at her!!! How marvelous are your works!!! As I saw that love that He had for ME …. ME ….. messed up ME, His love began to humble me. When I see what Grace (giving me good stuff I know good and well that I don’t deserve) and mercy (sparing me from all the bad stuff that could have and should have happened) He has showered upon me – it’s like WOW! He really can put up with a lot. And He still loves me???? Still!!!! It’s that revelation of 1) who I am in Christ – how God sees me, 2) What He has done for me – died for a wreck like me and 3) how He has extended an abundance of mercy and grace upon me – ignored all my trifling stuff, that allows me to extend the same grace and mercy to others.
Loving my neighbor as I love me is easier when 1) I see them as God sees them – everybody else is also fearfully and wonderfully made and when the angels see them, they say, God! How marvelous are your works!!! 2) Understand that the cross was really about ME!!! But guess what? It was ALSO about you, and you, and you, and you. He didn’t just die for me. He died for all 3) Recognize that He overlooks other people’s messy lives too. Sometimes we make agreements with our flesh and do things “you know your mama told you not to do” … and we think it’s so horrible … We can never be forgiven. But God’s tender mercy is new every day! There is nothing new under the sun to God. He has seen it all! And guess what? Jesus hung out with the “now I have really seen it all” messy people. What does that mean? He luvsssss sinners. To God, a sinner that can repent is like chicken to an alligator – irrestible. He was all about restoration and redemption. The healthy don’t need a doctor – only the sick.
But can I add something here? The steps to fulfilling the Greatest Commandment –Love God, Love Others has a middle step. You have to Love God, Love Yourself, and Love Others. Loving yourself is the bridge between loving God and loving others. That’s why Jesus says; love your neighbor as yourself. I’ve heard it say that a man who physically abuses a woman really hates himself. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself. If you hate yourself (low self-esteem), it will just translate into a messy, messed up love towards others.
So my advice? Study who God is. Who He really is. Not just stories about Him in the Bible but really, what He is all about. His likes, His dislikes. What makes Him happy, What makes Him sad. What makes Him mad. Get to know him well. You will be absolutely overwhelmed with awe and adoration. He is ALL THAT plus a giant, enormous bag of chips!
Next, study how God loves us – starting with the greatest proof of love anyone can every give: John 3:16. Don’t get knowledge – get REVELATION of how God loves us. Get to know Him intimately. Start a love affair with God. He will introduce you to the best friend you will ever have. His name is H.S. – the Holy Spirit. And He will guide you in all knowledge and truth of the Word –which is God. Some of the stuff H.S. reveals to me about myself when I am not aligned with God – it’s like dang! I know you’re right – but dang! And then then the other stuff he reveals about myself that is aligned with God – it’s like “holla” – I’m God’s Superstar!!!
Last step, with that healthy view of God and yourself, you have to put yourself out there and love those around you – your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is everyone you come in contact with – your family, your neighbor (literally), your co-workers, people at the store, people you bump into at the mall, people at church, people at the doctor office, people on the bus, the train, cranky people in that long line at the DMV, and the cranky, overworked people working at the DMV (yeah, we gotta love them too!) – are you starting to get the picture? Pretty much everybody!
If you do these things – you can’t fail. You will have fulfilled the greatest commandment. And your life will be much richer for it!