Maybe you’ve seen this highway billboard or a picture of it on Social Media that says: That “Love thy Neighbor thing… I meant that. -God.”
It is referring to the Book of Mark 12:28-31 in the Bible which includes: Love your neighbor as yourself.
And maybe you’ve wondered: How is that even possible? Could anyone actually do that? Is it really just that simple, like that “Love God, Love people” slogan some people use?
Here’s what I have learned: First, you must learn to receive God’s love for yourself. Until then, you can’t truly love anyone else. You may do all the right things, but your motivation will be all wrong. God isn’t nearly as concerned about what we do as He is about the attitudes of our hearts (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Also read: I John 4:7-21.
In that passage, you’ll find our new blended family’s foundational Bible verse: “We love because He first Loved us.” (We used it in our wedding, and have it on a sign placed on our fireplace mantle.)
Because here is the simple truth: You can only give away whatever it is that you have received.
Because in order to actually love God, we needed to let Him love us first.
In order to actually love others, we needed to let Him love us first.
Know this: God loves you. You can’t do anything to make God love you less. And you can’t do anything to make God love you more. Also, we owed a debt we couldn’t pay, and Jesus paid a debt he didn’t owe.
When we receive His unconditional love and forgiveness, it then becomes easier to Love God and Love People. Because we can’t strive to love God and love others from a place of emptiness, inadequacy, hatred or guilt. It becomes easy to flow from a heart that doesn’t obey out of duty, but out of relationship and passion. Remember, we are 0% perfect and 100% forgiven.
God wants a friendship with you no matter where you are in your journey, so don’t let a religious or legalistic mindset stop you from coming to Him as the forgiven and loved child that you are. God is not holding your mistakes over your head, so you don’t have to either. As I’ve shared before, if you read the Bible as a rule book, you’ll miss meeting Jesus on the Way.
Let’s now take look at the prior verse: Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, which Jesus called the “great commandment.” This is the commandment we as believers are to follow over all others. Now think of a pyramid. This commandment is like the base of a pyramid; every other commandment God gave or will give builds upward from this command. It is the base that all of our obedience to God rests upon…after all, if you don’t love God with all your heart, soul and mind, why would you want to obey any of His commands? Not to kill, lie, steal, commit adultery etc… Jesus uses that as the basis for the next command, to love our neighbors as ourselves. So if we love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, then it naturally follows that we already love ourselves because we then see ourselves the way God sees us. The next logical step is that we see everyone around us the way God sees them and love them the same way. Doesn’t that make sense?
These are two separate commands, yet you can’t really accomplish the second without following the first. And, once you accomplish the first, you can’t really help the natural process of following the second. Therefore, these are two distinct commands that are completely linked together. This Scripture was never about “learning to love yourself;” it was always about learning to love God with everything you are and everything you have. By doing that, loving yourself and everyone around you just comes naturally. Can you imagine a world where people loved each other this way?
The good news is that Jesus gave us these two commandments to summarize all of the laws and commands found in Scripture. The Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with God and then our relationship with other people. One naturally flows out of the other. I believe that without a relationship with God, all of our relationships with others will suffer to an extent.
Francis Chan notes: “How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ—the person driving painfully slow in front of me, the checker at the grocery store who seems more interested in chatting than ringing up my items, the member of my own church family with whom I can’t seem to have a conversation and not get annoyed? If we believe that, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself,’ then this passage has a lot to teach us. Basically, Christ is connecting the command to ‘love God’ with the command to ‘love your neighbor.’ By loving ‘the least of these,’ we are loving God Himself.”
In chapter 25 of Matthew, Jesus shares the Parable of the Three Servants, and ends it with this: Confused, they ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” He replied: “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”
The cause of the world’s problems is that each of us needs to be reconciled to God. The death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished that, but we will never love our neighbor as much we do ourselves if we do not first love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul. All of man’s best efforts toward world peace will fail as long as men are living in rebellion against God and His ways.
You say, “but I don’t want to become a religious nut!” The Good News is that He doesn’t either. He wants us to show others love by having a personal relationship built on trusting Him and following His ways so that we can possess and demonstrate to others the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (GNT). When you focus on learning to love as Jesus loved, all the other fruit of the Spirit will follow.
“God wants us to learn to accept each other and love each other—and this becomes possible, as we turn our lives over to Christ and allow Him to change us from within.”
For those who believe, you may not know it, but when you give your life to Jesus, all the fruit of the Spirit are planted inside you in seed form. Through the Spirit you can experience joy and peace in every circumstance, no matter how difficult or painful. So in order to really focus on loving others, we have to constantly be aware of how much Jesus loves us by how he laid His life down for us on the cross. When we are truly grateful for his finished work, we can really express His unconditional love that is needed to plant the seed into an unbeliever’s heart.
One of many communication problems we have in our culture now is, as Pastor Rick Warren points out: “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. Also, the word ‘tolerant’ has changed its meaning. It used to mean ‘I may disagree with you completely, but I will treat you with respect. Today, tolerant means – ‘you must approve of everything I do.’ There’s a difference between tolerance and approval. Jesus accepted everyone no matter who they were. He doesn’t approve of everything I do, or you do, or anybody else does either. You can be accepting without being approving.”
Know that God always loves you so much more than you realize and He wants you to experience this love in the deepest part of your soul. Pray and ask Him to help you be a person who walks and speak the Truth in love. Choose to believe the best about people, rather than automatically assuming the worst. Most people think that there is a God, and that things happen for a reason, and I have found that people come into our life either as a blessing or to teach us a lesson.
I encourage you to study the passages of Scripture that talk about God’s love for you and really get them into your heart. Then ask God, “How can I encourage someone today?” Don’t wait until you feel like it. It has to be intentional, so go out and love people on purpose. You will be amazed at the joy it releases in your soul.
Only Christ can solve the complicated racial problem that is facing the world today. Until people of all races come to accept Christ as Savior, they do not have the ability to truly love each other. Accepting Jesus Christ in your heart as Lord and Savior can give you this supernatural love, which then enables you to love even those whom you otherwise could not.
Pray this: Heavenly Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit, and that supernatural love of Jesus, that enables me to reach out to the many people who, in and of myself, would be impossible to love. Amen.