It Starts With Love
Love Your Neighbor. It is the simple direction Jesus left with us when questioned about which commandment was the greatest (Mark 12:28-31). He answered, “Love your neighbor”. Your neighbor could be living on either side of your home or working in the office next door. Your neighbor could also be occupying the bedroom next to yours in the same house. The Bible didn’t say ‘change your neighbor’ or ‘judge your neighbor’, it just said to love your neighbor. During the divided times we appear to be living in across this world it makes me wonder – why is it so hard to love our neighbor? To make it personal, why is it so hard for me to love my neighbor? I think it all boils down to the other simple concept laid out in this scripture…if you are going to love your neighbor you must also love yourself.
The scripture says in verses 30-31:
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”
Love Me Too?
Interestingly, when I read this verse I have this visual of a triangle with God, me and my neighbor at each point. This triad is one that is continually cycling. God loves me, then I love my neighbor, then my neighbor loves (or learns of) God. Then God loves my neighbor, then they love me and then I love God. It is a continuous process that blesses all and gives God the Glory. It seems though, the hardest part of this verse is the ‘loving yourself’ part. I truly believe it is hard to love our neighbor genuinely because we must first learn to genuinely love ourselves. See, we have an intimate view of our flaws, fears, and shortcomings. We know what is in or secrets closet. We know what we have been through. With all that we know, who could love us? Without conditions too?
Receive God’s Love
Thankfully, God loves us beyond what we see. He always sees our potential and purpose. God wants you to know you were created with perfection in mind (Song of Solomon 4:7). You were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Sometimes it is easier to serve and love our neighbors because it makes us feel better about ourselves. In other words, our kindness provides a justification to love ourselves which isn’t quite how I believe God wants us to perceive our existence. Our love for our neighbor is an extension of our love for ourselves and our love for ourselves is an extension of God’s love for us. Also, it shows our understanding of the beautiful creation we are because God made us. God loves us, flaws and all. Looking back at that triangle again, it the perfect foundation to demonstrate the righteousness of God with each point interacting with each other – respectfully, lovingly and with compassion.
How do we get to ‘loving’ ourselves? Love God with all your heart and soul. Let God love you back. Receive His unconditional love. God doesn’t love us because of ourselves, God loves us in spite of ourselves with no boundaries.
That is how we love our neighbors. Can you imagine what this world would be like if we operated this way? It leaves me breathless to think of what that state would look like. So, until then, I’m going to start where God has me – in my home, my neighborhood, my workplace and my church.
And, by the way, also start with loving you! Start where God has you – but first look up and thank God for creating beauty and perfection in you – then, pass it on.
This is the foundation of Living the Redeemed Life. God has already prepared the path for your purpose in this world with his redeeming love. Walk in it, love and don’t look back!