Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If God is love, it makes sense that the most important two commandments involve love. When we let love fill us instead of other emotions like anger, fear, or worry, we’re free to focus on the positive things in life and other positive emotions will follow. When we love, all the negative things around us don’t seem as important because we have the right focus.
Also, because our feelings generally guide our actions, everything we do will reflect the overflowing love within us. Love is such a powerful emotion; it truly trumps all others. It sounds cheesy, and we’ve seen it played out in several movies where somehow love is what defeats the evil antagonist. But it’s true. Love conquers all.
Aside from just loving in general though, why “love your neighbor”? And note, it doesn’t say “love your friend” or even “love good people.” We don’t choose our neighbors, and they can be good or bad people. They can be deserving of love or not. They can be Christians or not. God wants us to love all people. But why?
Love Helps Us Get Along
How often do people get bent out of shape at work because they’re frustrated with a co-worker? Or, better yet, how often do people in the church get bent out of shape because they’re frustrated with a fellow believer? And when that happens, what do we do? Give a stellar performance at work? Increase the kingdom at church? Of course not. We sulk and brood and spend a lot of energy being upset when we could be using that energy working together.
God knew that in this life we would need to be able to work together, not just in everyday life but even more so in His church. We can’t accomplish anything by ourselves. God made us to need Him and to need each other. This helps us to not be prideful by our own accomplishments and to not wear ourselves out too much by doing things by ourselves. We’re better together.
There is also great joy in knowing you’ve accomplished something by working as a team, and a bonding that comes with it.
But we need to get along to be able to work together successfully. To do that we have to love each other by seeing others the way God sees them, not the way we perceive them to be on the outside. We have to remember that oftentimes the way they talk and act isn’t who they truly are. If we don’t know them on a deep level, we don’t have the whole picture.
However, even if we do know them and how they act does truly reflect who they are, remember that the person you’re seeing is who they are right now, not who God intends for them to be. God loves them the way they are right now, even though He desires for them to move beyond that into who He made them to be.
He did the same for you – loved you even when you weren’t where you needed to be. He still does. We are always moving forward into what God has planned for us, always growing. So why can’t we extend that same grace to other people? If we fully receive God’s grace, we should have more than enough to give to others.
One other thing to remember that may help is that these people are where they are because of a long series of events in their past, some of them their own choices, but many not. And there is no way we will ever understand all of that.
So, the best thing we can do to get along with each other is remember how much we are loved so that we can let that love overflow to others, even when they don’t deserve it. Because we don’t either.
Love Furthers His kingdom
Love furthers His kingdom by attracting others to Christ. Have you heard the phrase, They don’t care what you know until they know that you care? Evangelism is a tricky thing. Yes, we need to get the good news out there, but most people won’t listen to someone if they don’t think that person cares about them.
So much of evangelism is focused on loving people and serving them. When the rest of the world sees how Christians truly love each other and love them, they will see what they’re missing and crave it.
Everyone desires to be loved and to feel that close connection with people. When we show them genuine love by spending time with them, listening to them, and serving them, they can get a taste of what Christ looks like. And if they get a true taste of Him, they will definitely want more.
Love Glorifies Him
Love always points to God, even if the person loving doesn’t realize it. When we love, we are closer to God because God is love. It makes our souls unite with Christ. The Bible says they will know us by our love. Love is God’s signature, His mark on His people that sets us apart.
When we use our love identity to love on others, it’s almost like a beacon that lights the way to God and shows just how glorious He is. Our love isn’t perfect. It never will be. But it’s the closest this world will ever get to the real thing, and they will never get the real thing unless we lead them to it by loving them first.
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