30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”-Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
When I was a child, my focus on this scripture was on only loving God. Then, when I was a teenager, my focus was on loving others and God was in the mix but He was not a priority. Many years later, I know that the scripture has three parts and is in an intentional order. Jesus said to love God first, ourselves and then others. This order makes sense. When Jesus said these verses, He was being asked what is the most important commandment. He talked about three beautiful aspects of love.
God’s love for us cannot be matched. He came in the form of Jesus and died for our past, present and future sins. Hebrews 8:12 (NIV) says,”For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” He loves us unconditionally and cannot love us any less or more than He does right now. You do not have to strive for his love but it is given as a gift. We are under grace, not works. When we come before God, he sees us in right standing and as being righteous. God should be our first love. No person, place or thing should come before God. His love is not conditional and is an authentic and true love.
We have to accept God’s love and therefore love ourselves. You cannot love another person if you do not love yourself. I am not urging you to be selfish or self-centered but you have to love yourself. Give yourself the benefit of doubt, see the best in yourself and do not become your worst critic and enemy. Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) says, “2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” You are included in this one another. You have heard the old saying, “You cannot give away what you do not have.” If you do not love and adore yourself, how do you expect to give that away?
Loving other people is not easy. You have heard the saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” We have to remember Jesus did not just die for you but for everyone. So when we look someone, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see the person through God’s eyes. 1 John 4:8 (NIV) says, “8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is not hate or judgement but He is love. Anything else is not God. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) says, “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Only the Holy Spirit in us can cultivate these beautiful gifts which we can share with each other. We cannot produce these authentic fruits in our lives through our flesh. It is impossible.
Application time: Is there someone or a group of people you are having a hard time loving? It could be God? yourself? Or someone else or a certain group of people? I would strongly encourage you to pray and allow the word of God wash over you and help you see God, yourself and other people in a different way. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)