It’s All About Relationship: Love of God; Love of Self; Love for Others (Matt. 22:34-40).
For several weeks now my study and preaching focus has been on fulfilling the “Great Commandment” of Jesus which is recorded in the first three Gospels. Here Christ followers are commanded to love God with their whole being and to love others as they love themselves.
The first requirement is to love Creator God with all of our heart, soul, mind, strength. In other words, with all of our being in every way possible! We love God with our emotions (heart) so it is OK to get excited and show the joy that springs up when we express our love. Our soul, our innermost being, desires to be in full relationship with the one who made us and loves us unconditionally. We are to study God’s Word and be familiar with Christian tradition and history so that we might better understand who God is. This knowledge strengthens and informs our relationship with Him.
Mark and Luke add the word “strength” to the equation helping us to understand that we are to love with our full might. We are to align our will with God’s and be fully supportive of His transforming mission and ministry in the world.
In the second part of his command, Jesus challenges us to love others with the same unconditional love that we have received in our relationship with God. The caveat is that we are to love our neighbor as we love our self. This seems straightforward for those of us who feel pretty good about our self. But what about the Christian who has low self-esteem or believes they may be unworthy of God’s love? We must first have a healthy understanding of God’s love for us, as a child of God, before we can love others in the way God wants. This means understanding that you and I are each a unique creation in God’s image, forgiven and reconciled by God’s grace, and fully adopted into God’s loving family.
But self-love that leads to selfishness is not what Jesus is after here. It is a healthy self-esteem which is equally concerned for the other’s well-being. In Luke’s account, Jesus is asked to define who our “neighbor” is. He replies with the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” The religious leader who asked Jesus this question wanted to justify himself to Jesus. He believed that he would be able to check off the kind of people he was supposed to love and thus fulfill the law. Jesus’ answer reveals that the key to obeying the greatest commandment is not who we love but rather who we are. We are to be the neighbor! We should have the attitude of being a good and loving neighbor to anyone and everyone God places in our path. We must have the attitude of a loving and caring neighbor in order to obey Christ’s command.
Our love for others is to be grounded in God’s love for us. A natural result of loving God and receiving God’s love is to love others as much as we love ourselves as God’s adopted child.