One of the first things I learned (and I use the term “learned” loosely) almost immediately upon becoming a follower of Christ is to love. Love above all else. First, we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and then we love each other. Jesus told us those are the greatest commandments. They cover it all – when we do these two things, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we are doing the right things. Sounds so simple, but when I really turn them over in my head, I find they are a lot to understand and to put into practice all the time. Like when I start thinking about how small I am in the realm of my city of Denton, and then Texas, and then the United States, and then the Universe, and then wham – my brain gives up because it is such a huge concept. I have to stop thinking because it gets to mind-boggling. Jesus said it simply and matter-of-factly. He simplified it because it is complicated when we take love seriously.
Love the Lord. I do love the Lord like crazy! I can’t go through my day (or night) without him. Without realizing it consciously, I am in conversation with him all day long. Fifteen years ago, I had to make a concerted effort to pray and talk to him. Now I do it easily, but it took years of practice. I know he is always there. Am I always there? Do I always put him first? No. If I am honest with myself, there are days that I spend way too much time on social media; Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (way too much time on Pinterest), or way too much time gorging myself with Netflix marathons, or Rangers baseball, or in the fall, football…I become addicted to worshiping too many things of this world and less time reading my Bible, studying, praying, and LISTENING! I rationalize these times by saying to myself, “You didn’t pin that inappropriate pin” (I just screen-shotted it and sent it to my friend) or “I didn’t comment what I really wanted to say on that particular post by so-and-so.” I was practicing “self-control.” Is that really practicing “love” for God and for others if I have the “thought” to put someone in their place? Truth – I would really be practicing “self-control” and “love” by getting off the laptop, Apple TV,or iPad and opening my Bible. But this is me, being real and honest about what I struggle with.
Love others as you love yourself. Here’s something even more real – I struggle with loving others a lot! I do have a lot of compassion, love, and empathy for people who have been hurt or wronged, and for those who have made poor choices (God knows I have made plenty of those). I have been forgiven so much! But there are some things – injustice, discrimination, bullying, lying (not the little lies, but the big ones), intolerance, cliques – I could go on and on – the list is long. These things drive me crazy! It is not my job to judge these things, but I want to so bad! It is God’s job. My job is to love. My humanity and the enemy wrestle me with this one. In my head I am pompous, audacious, altruistic, and judgmental. I need Christ to replace that with humble, gentle, forgiving, and empathetic – ALL THE TIME! When it has to do with sin that hurts others, I want to right the wrongs because the times that I have been the perpetrator of these crimes, I have had a hard time forgiving myself. I hate those parts of myself. The parts that remember the times that I really screwed up, I hurt people, I left someone out…I judge harshly because it comes from a place of judging myself harshly. Or maybe someone judged me for what I did and I still feel the hurt, the sting of that, and so I lash out in my mind with judgmental thoughts when I see it in someone else.
It is only in admitting these dark parts of myself that I can find freedom. I’m asking God to help me to forgive myself, so that I can forgive others and LOVE ABOVE ALL!
Matthew 22:35-42 The Message (MSG)
The Most Important Command
When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”