One of the teachers of the Law of Moses came up while Jesus and the Sadducees were arguing. When he heard Jesus give a good answer, he asked him, “What is the most important commandment?” Jesus answered, “The most important one says: `People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The second most important commandment says: `Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these.” — Mark 12:28-31 (CEV)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
This seems like a command I can follow. Even when I fail, I can at least know that I desire to love in this way and I can continue to make every effort to love Him and to let His grace perfect me and to transform me into His likeness.
Things that make the Lord easy to love:
- He is only one God. It’s easy to focus on one.
- He loves me with a love I’ve never known before.
- He is perfect
- I want to be like Him, possessing His character–His graciousness, His compassion, His love and faithfulness and wisdom.
Love others as much as you love yourself.
Knowing I need to follow this command makes me want to pout like a selfish child. I don’t have the same desire or make the same effort with this command as I do with the command to love God.
Things that make others difficult to love:
- There are an unlimited number of “others.” This command would be hard enough to follow if it said to love all Josephs as much as you love yourself. Then at least I could narrow it down and focus on the Josephs. But the command is “others.” “Others” is everyone who is not me. That’s just hard to wrap my head around.
- Not all “others” love me. In fact, most “others” have the same unsanctified opinion of me as I have of them. It’s the “others” in my life who have hurt me and taken advantage of me and lied to me and who are intimidating and scary.
- “Others are completely imperfect. See #2. They hurt, they lie, they break their promises. And have you ever noticed? Simply one of the most intimidating things about “others” is that they can be the unknown ones.
- They so often bring out the worst in me. If it weren’t for the “others,” I wouldn’t lose my temper or hold grudges or have distrust or evil thoughts.
- But perhaps the thing that makes loving all those “others” as much as I love myself the most difficult is that it threatens my life of excess. Although my lifestyle may be one that the average middle class American may not consider excessive, when it compares with the lifestyles in many places of the world, I know that I have more than I need. And to love “others”as much as I love myself would mean to share my time and my things and my food and my house and and my shower with the overwhelming number of “others” — anyone who is not me.
So Father, please reveal to me Your heart for the “others.” Please help me to see them as Your beloved creation who are made in Your image. Show me how I too am an “other” that a follower of Jesus decided to love as much as they loved themselves. Teach me to love with Your love. I have so much growth and maturity that needs to take place. Pour out Your spirit of repentance on me and plant in me a desire to love the one in front of me, whoever they may be and wherever I may be. Help me to reveal Your Father’s heart to those along my path. Give me an understanding that I can’t love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength if I do not love Your body and those made in Your image as much as I love myself. Thank you for wanting to see me grow and become more like You. You are a great, mighty, and good God and Father. I praise Your glorious name.
In Jesus’ name I pray,