What Should We Be Doing?
Christianity can too easy become a list of rules. Read the Bible everyday. Pray through your prayer list. Go to church. Join a small group. Share Jesus with others. Convict others of sin. Have a fish on your car. Leave a gospel tract for a tip at restaurants. Tell people what you don’t do and what you are against. Sing your Christian songs out loud for all to hear. It all can become quite exhausting.
Obviously I’m having fun with that list. Not everything was a good suggestion, just as not everything was bad. However the point is a list of rules will get you off the path. Jesus made it clear that there were two things that were important if we wanted to follow Him: love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40).
As Christians we seem to understand the loving God with all our heart part. We may have some work to do, but it makes sense to us. What is strange is how the second is like unto it? How is loving your neighbor like loving God?
How Is Loving Others Like Loving God?
I think our first failure of understanding really stems from not fully comprehending what is commanded in loving your neighbor as yourself. We often limit this to just doing good things for others. If we see someone in need, we should help them. While this is part of it, if we limit our view to just helps, we miss the bigger command to love.
For example, let’s say you are at St. Arbucks and the person in front of you in line drops their stuff. As a follower of Christ you want to live out love, so you help that person pick them up. You just helped them. It was an act of love. But, was it like loving God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength? The next day when you are both back again, will you acknowledge that person? Will they be a real person to you, or just a clumsy oaf in front of you in line?
Loving Others is More Than Just Helping Them
Part of loving others is getting to know them. As we listen to others, we can start to see the greatness God put in them. God is so extremely creative and loving that He has placed a little bit of Himself in each person. As we love that person we get to experience that piece of God for ourselves.
Think through your different relationships. Most people are just ignored by you – that’s life: there are 7 billion people in the world. Then there are those people you know, but still ignore them because of different reasons. There are those you say hello in passing, but keep walking. Finally there are some more real relationships.
They’re those that you call by name and with whom you make eye contact and smile. They are those you make plans to meet with for coffee. You have some conversations with them about work, sports, movies, or other interests. Finally they are those friends that know when you are worried about something or who you call when something great happens.
Loving Others is Like Unto Loving God
The point is that when we go deeper with people, we are exposing ourselves to more of God. As we get to know others we test what we actually believe about God. Do we feel we can comfort others, or do we remain silent when others are hurting (2 Corinthians 1:4)? Do we believe we are accepted in our weakness, or do we hide our faults for fear of being rejected (2 Corinthians 12:9)? Do we believe in God’s protection, or do we refuse to forgive others when they hurt us (Colossians 3:13)?
The truth is we cannot fully love God without loving others. And, we cannot fully love others without getting to know them to know how to love them. And, if we get close enough to know them, then there is a good chance we may get hurt by them, and so we will need to pull on our love for God even more to continue to love them. Loving God and loving others is like the chicken and the egg debate. Which comes first? The point is that they both need each other. The second is like unto it.