Love Thy Neighbor

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"'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" - Matthew 22:36-39

Have you ever thought it would be easier to serve God if weren't for people?

I wonder if Jesus knew we'd get frustrated with each other. Perhaps that's why He answered the Pharisees' question the way He did.

In Matthew chapter 22:37-40 the Pharisees asked Jesus about the greatest commandment. Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Jesus answered a question the Pharisees didn't ask. They only asked for the greatest commandment, not the second. But Jesus knew one couldn't be done without the other. Obviously He wanted His listeners to consider loving God and loving people as inseparable. But why? Perhaps Jesus knew we would tend toward one or the other.

The truth is, we can love God and neglect loving people. Of course, none of us would admit to that. But I've been guilty of serving God through my commitments at church and then getting annoyed with people, and not showing compassion or kindness towards them.

When I was the director of the children's ministry 20 years ago, I loved the kids, but the volunteers often got on my nerves. Especially when they decided to not show up for an event they signed up to help with. I would get so angry with them, and many times, judgment and a critical thought crowded out love.

On the other hand, we can also love people and neglect our love for God.

We can lower God's standards, minimize His commands, and twist Scripture so as not to offend others. We can ignore how Jesus is the only way to God, because that would exclude so many "good" people from heaven. Yes, it's possible to love people more than we love God.

So what is Jesus saying here? I believe He's saying we must figure out how to do both. First, we must love God through trusting Him, believing in the goodness of His character and obeying His Word--even when we don't fully understand things.

In doing so, we must be honest about the condition of our hearts and ask God to help us love others well.

I'll be honest, this is hard for me. It is only through daily prayer, dependence on God, and Him working in my heart that I can even attempt to live out what Jesus called the two most important commandments. Even then, on my best days, I feel inadequate.

Thankfully, God never asks me to do anything without offering to help. His Word sustains and encourages me. The Holy Spirit guides me. And God's love and mercy for me, a most unlovable woman at times, helps keep me mindful of why I love Him so much, and why I should let Him show others that same love through me.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, thank You for loving me. You have shown me more love than I deserve. Help me to love You more and love those You've placed in my life. Amen.
Date: 
Oct 22 2018