Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment was, and he responded, ‘The most important one… is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12:29-31)
Jesus’ response has a clear order: first, love God; second, love your neighbour. The order is important because the love we extend to our neighbour is the same love we receive from God. If we are not in a deep, intimate, loving relationship with God, we will not be able to extend genuine Christian (agape) love to others. Just as parents in an aircraft need to have their own oxygen mask secure and working before helping their child, so we must first breathe the pure air of the kingdom of God before we can lead others into it.
Our modern culture is in love with the idea of love, but it does not know how to love without condition. In our world, the narrative is clear: we find love and acceptance and worth only through performance, by earning it.
True love, however, is not dependent on our actions but is a condition of being. We learn to reside habitually in the kingdom of God’s love, which is patient and kind, never jealous our proud or self-seeking, which protects and trusts and hopes.
And when we catch that love, we begin to love in the same way. The final garment in which we clothe ourselves in Colossians 3:14 is love, which makes it all work together. God dresses us in his unfailing, eternal love. Now we can love as God loves.
God’s love for me never fails. As I learn to dwell in this love I will naturally begin to love others in the same way that God loves me: with patience, kindness, and keeping no records of wrongs. I can love, because God first loved me.
Gracious Abba, your love is the greatest gift of my life. Help me to know it not just in my head but in my heart. May your love become such a deep reality that my heart begins to swell with joy and hope. And may I offer that same kind of love to those I live and work with, and everyone I meet this day. Amen.
What would your life look like if you genuinely, fully and perfectly understood God’s love for you?