Love, Not Commands

The first is … ‘you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’   from Mark 12

When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was most important, his answer, According to Mark 12, seemed to suggest that he is a person whose ministry is based on love, not commands.

Sure, the two statements in the scriptures above are written like commandments – they say “you shall”—but what follows those words is much more about teaching people how to have a good life than telling them what God requires of them.

So what does Jesus say God commands?  That’s simple enough:  Love God and love everybody.  How hard is that?  In reality, of course, both of those simple teachings are difficult to live up to and sometimes even intentionally ignored.

Loving God should be easy.  God is responsible for our very existence, so we should have an innate, overwhelming joy for the one set our lives into motion. Too often, however, I’ve noticed people exhibiting contempt for God because they really aren’t satisfied with their lives.  They’re not perfect, so God gets the blame. Perhaps their energy would be better directed toward improving themselves rather than attacking God.

And what about loving other people? That should be easy, too, since we’re all siblings. We’re all joined together by God, our common creator. But if that isn’t enough reason to love the people around you, think of it this way: You can’t fully love God unless you love what God has created. And you can’t love the things God has created without a loving respect for the creator.

Try to see the people around you from what you imagine is God’s perspective.

To do that, you’ll have to love everyone just as they are. You’ll have to accept them, even if they’re flawed. You’ll have to affirm the worth of each person. You’ll have to help them grow to be better and encourage them to call up the very best they have inside themselves.

To love people radically and unquestioningly, you’ll have to use all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. God does. And showing that kind of love to other people is the best way to show it to God.

If you call that a commandment, then that’s what I think Jesus commands.

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