The greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is to love our neighbor. The order here is extremely important. Only by loving God FIRST are we able to truly love our neighbor.
This is true even when (perhaps especially when) our “neighbor” is our beloved mate.
Consider these wise words from C.S. Lewis:
When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.
—C. S. Lewis (in a 1952 letter)
We must love God first and foremost – our love for Him makes it possible for us to love not only our dearest…but our dear children…dear parents… and every dear (and not-so-dear) neighbor!
We must love God first and best.
Before leaving this verse behind, let’s look at the little phrase Jesus tucks in as a qualifier on how we are to love our neighbor. He says “as yourself.” Does that give a little squeeze to your conscience? Jesus knows us – perhaps better than we know ourselves. We are indeed selfish in our nature. Are you thinking, “I’ve moved beyond that all-about-me attitude. That girl was left behind in high school.”
Here’s a way to gauge your “me-ness”: when you look at photos taken at your last family vacation, the girls night out, your class reunion, daughter’s birthday party, son’s graduation, or any photo that includes you and other people….who do you look at first? What makes it a “good” photo– worthy of your Facebook profile? We look at ourselves Am I right? Even if hubby’s eyes are closed….if it’s a good hair day for moi, it’s getting tagged for all to see!
No matter how much we would like to deny it, we are basically selfish creatures.
If you want to be challenged and inspired on the subject of loving God and loving others, I encourage you to read I John…consider these verses from
I John 4: 10-11 –“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
An awareness of God’s love for us both compels — and propels — us to love one another. God loved us FIRST! We aren’t the initiators. We are the responders! And when we love Him, we are able to love others — as ourselves.
Who is the neighbor God is asking you to love this week? Would you ask God for the desire to love…the strength to love…and the wisdom for how to love well? Would you ask Him to fill you – consume you – with His love– so that it will overflow in love for your neighbor?
How about a love challenge for April? Each day for the next 30 days, choose one neighbor to specifically and deliberately love. Choose a word of kindness or an act of kindness to fulfill the second greatest commandment. Go ahead & love someone! Share some ideas with the rest of us on how we, too, can fulfill the second greatest commandment.
Here’s the link to the teaching lecture for Mark 12: 28-31