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.
I’ve heard many sermons on the verses above. Pulpit reminders of putting God first, and others before ourselves. Everyone from Rick Warren to Bob and Larry have taken stabs at unpacking it. Truth be told (and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this), I have struggled with the application of these verses in my own life. I hear “love your neighbour” and quickly pictures of my family, friends, church family, and my next door neighbor come to mind. Well sure, I love them. Even when they annoy me. I’ve mowed buddy’s lawn – and he’s a heathen. I’ll drop everything to make sure I have time to help a friend. I even shovelled a strangers side-walk (that one time). Sure, loving my neighbors comes easy to me.
And as quickly as my sense of accomplishment flooded in, it fades out.
What about the others?
You know…the “Others”. They look different to each of us. Sometimes they are the down and out, the marginalized, the struggling, the homeless. The Others could be your co-worker who seems to hate you and everything around you. The Others could be your son-in-law who ruined another family get together with his appreciation of high balls. For some of us the Others are groups… activists or pacifists or conservative party members or liberal supporters, or those bullies from tenth grade… the list goes on. I have many “Others” in my life. Somehow when I think about loving my neighbour they are always in the back of my mind. Surely, not them too, Lord?
A young man recently asked me how he could reach Grande Prairie’s gay community for Christ. I told him it would start with him having to make some gay friends first…we haven’t talked about it again. The truth is, truly loving our neighbour will make us uncomfortable, and it will probably be messy.
“Love your neighbour as yourself” – The second greatest commandment is more than a utopian kumbya mantra. It reveals a Kingdom reality. When others are loved by us it causes a ripple in the spirit.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.
The Father has given us a spirit of love. Not just so we can get along and everyone can smile more often, but to take back what the enemy has stolen! Those who are loved will experience the ripple from Christ’s victory won for them. It is the Father’s love working through us moulding the world, drawing them closer to Him.