Have you ever found it hard to live out the scripture that says, “Love your neighbor as yourself?” (Matthew 22:39)
I mean, when we break down what the Bible says about love, that’s a tall order… Take for example the go-to passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13, starting with, “Love is patient and kind.” That’s tough enough (especially the patience part!) But then, not only is love not jealous or boastful or proud… it’s not even rude or irritable! And what about, “Doesn’t demand its own way?” Or, “Keeps no record of being wronged?” After that, we’ve got words like “never” and “always…” As in, “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful.” And finally, “endures through every circumstance.” Seriously? Every circumstance? No matter what?
When I think about how often I can be irritable, or impatient, or want to hold onto some wrong that was done to me, I come face to face with what God is really requiring of us when He commands us to love our neighbor. Doing most of the things on that list means being willing to put others first, and hang in there when it’s not reciprocated. That can be hard enough on a good day, not to mention one of those, “I can’t believe this is happening to me” days! But the great news is that everything God requires us to do, He gives us the ability to do! (That is what grace is!) So where do we begin? Simple…
If you’re going to love your brother or sister, you’re going to have to love God first. (excerpt from Learning to Love in the Hard Places, by Dr. Chester C. Pipkin Jr.)
Loving God and loving others go together. In fact, earlier on in that scripture in Matthew 22, Jesus explains how the most important commandment is to love God, and secondly we’ve got to love our neighbor. It’s by growing in our love for God that we develop the ability to trust Him when we are challenged in showing love to the people around us. And the Bible says the Love of God is poured out into our hearts. We can give others the love that we receive from God. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 ESV) The Bible is also clear that we need to love God first and foremost. But what’s interesting is that when we do love God first, it puts us in a position to love others the right way. The way that includes everything on that list that seems so impossible otherwise. Having my own love thing going on with the Lord puts me in a position to love sacrificially- on a bad day, or when the other person rejects me or is unlovable, or in any other circumstance- because I know that the One I love above all will never let me down.