“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. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
In an age of lightning-fast judgments and impatience with those whose ideas are very different than our own, these words of Jesus can be unsettling, if not counter-intuitive. The 2 greatest commandments sound good on paper, especially the first, but to love our neighbor is sometimes a bit of a challenge to be sure. When Jesus says to “love our neighbor,” he is not just talking about those who live near us, rather he is referring to everybody on earth for whom he died on the cross to save. A life well-lived in love is one that sees the good in all people and values them as children of God. It may not mean that we understand what they are doing or why, and certainly does not mean we need to approve of their actions in our minds, but it does mean that our judgment takes a back seat to God’s grace and mercy. While on a mission trip in Joplin, Missouri I happened upon a book in the library of the church who was hosting us with this opening statement; “be kind. Everybody is fighting a battle.” Loving our neighbor is understanding that someone’s reaction to us or the world around them may be about unseen struggles that are impacting their outlook on life. A life well-lived in love offers kindness and compassion towards all people and understands that everybody has challenges to one degree or another which impacts their worldview. We are called to share the love of God, which is nothing less than grace. There is also a blessing with a life well-lived in love; the freedom from the need to judge anybody and just enjoy the life that has been given by God. A life well-lived in love celebrates the blessing of those around them, offers grace instead of judgement, shares the peace of Christ in all circumstances, and seeks wisdom from the very heart of God. Thank you Jesus for the love you have poured into us by your Holy Spirit!