“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.“
Could it really be that simple? That to love God and love people is the greatest and most important of anything we can do? That if we focus on love, everything else will fall into place?
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Could it really be that easy?
Easy? Most emphatically no.
To truly love everyone around you: To think of others more highly than yourself. To put the needs of others ahead of your own. To always act in the best interest of those around you. To neglect nothing that would care for the needs of others.
To love hoping for nothing in return. To love even those who do not deserve it and never will do anything to deserve it.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
To love, in short, as God loves us.
Love waits patiently while the person ahead of us in the checkout line drops all of the coupons on the floor and is kind to bend down and help pick them up. It does not envy the possessions or well-behaved children of its neighbors or brag about the vacation it is about to take with its perfect family; it does not view itself as better than the church member without a college degree or speak rudely to the clerk or waiter trying to serve. Love does not insist on going to its favorite restaurant; it does not snap at its spouse when something doesn’t get done quite right or harbor resentment when the neighbor’s cat digs up the roses and poops in the broccoli; it does not rejoice in the immorality on Downton Abbey, but rejoices in the C.S. Lewis book that speaks truth. Love bears the inattention of a husband or friend, believes that a church member truly had the best intentions even though his actions spoke otherwise, hopes that God will bring a family member back to His way, endures all kinds of rudeness and selfishness. Love never ends.
Simple, yet so very difficult.
How, then? How to love?
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world…We love because he first loved us.
Ah. To be able to love like God we must abide in God. Abide in God, allow Christ’s words to abide in us, as branches abide in the vine.
As He has done for us so we are to do for this world.
A heavy burden? Not if we are abiding. Not if we are surrounding ourselves with Him so that He can fill us up beyond measure with His love.
We love because He first loved us.
Abba, give me the desire for nothing more than to abide in You. Help me to burden myself with nothing else but to love You and to love those You place in my path.
Art credit: The Three Crosses by Rembrandt; The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof by James Tissot; Pieta by Michelangelo; Christ with Martha and Mary by Siemiradzki