Have you ever stopped to think about what the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” truly means? We all frequently say we love so many things in this life…cars, food, places we visit, things of material value, but the truth is, we can’t really love anything that doesn’t have the capacity to love us back.
The Bible talks about love explicitly as its central theme and is, in essence, a love letter to us from the Creator of the universe. All the laws it lists can be reduced to two simple principles: Love God and love others. I John 4:8 tells us “But anyone who does not know love does not know God—for God is love.” It is clear that to love others according to biblical standards is more than just an emotional feeling or attraction. Love encompasses sacrifice.
When Christ was asked what the most important of all commandments were, He quoted the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself along with loving God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:29-31) In addition, the Gospel of Luke 10:25-27, discusses Jesus answering the question of an expert in religious law on how we receive eternal life. Jesus turned the question around and asked the religious teacher what the law of Moses said. His answer was stunningly simple, “You must love the Lord your God with all you with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Apostle Paul said the whole law that governs our lives could be summed up in this one command. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) That, in and of itself, should tell us of its importance and give us a strong desire to seek and live according to its meaning. To love others is one thing, to love them as we love ourselves is something all together different.
Today people are confused about love. Love is the greatest of all human qualities. Love involves unselfish service to others giving evidence that you care. Faith is the foundation and contract of the biblical message. Hope is the attitude and focus while love is the action. When faith and hope are in line, you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.
Perhaps the most compelling of all statements concerning our love for others was in John 15:12-13 when Jesus Himself said, “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” Friend, if that doesn’t get your smoke stack burning and shake the very foundation of what you are made of, I don’t know what will. The depth of our love for and relationship with the Almighty is revealed by the love we show toward others. The fruit of our spirit…not just words, but by actions.
People think and wonder what they will say or how they should act when something painful happens to someone they know. How about just showing up for starters? Common phrases such as “I love you”, “We love you”, “Let us know if there is anything I or we can do” or the favorite and most popular of all, “We are praying for you”, are all wonderful words but they do little in the long run to help without acts of kindness and sacrifice. Maybe it’s time we stop asking and start doing. Simple actions such as writing, staying in contact, sending cards, visiting or performing gestures of kindness for the families of those that are hurting are priceless and never forgotten..
Perhaps you have someone in your life that you know needs a friend or a shoulder to cry on. Maybe someone in your family is in need and you are leaving the problems in one of your siblings’ hands. Or maybe you know someone like a friend of mine who spent time in a federal prison camp for an unintentional dallasistrative oversight and his brother, the only family member or person left in his life to depend on, decided he was too embarrassed leaving him to find his own way once released. The next time you are faced with someone you know traveling through the dark valley’s of life, stop for a moment and think what you would need if that were you. Whatever is pressing in your life will most likely be there for you when you return from giving a few moments of your time.
Love endures and is greater than all other human qualities. “There are three things that endure—faith, hope and love—and the greatest of these is love. Let love be the highest goal…” (I Cor. 13:13) Put love first and love will eventually be your guiding light. Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone once said, “When our attitude toward ourselves is big, and our attitude toward others is generous and merciful, we attract big and generous portions of success.” Accepting and giving love brings peace into your life that no amount of money can ever buy. Unfathomable peace that is chased by many and found by few. That same love leads to true success, true abundance and true meaning while defining who you really are. I can’t speak for you but I think most would agree, that is a life worth striving for.
It has been said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.” When we are faced with adversity, the way we handle ourselves, how we look at others and the example we leave for others to follow are the things that will last for eternity. We must remember that even for those possessing the courage to fight, overcome obstacles and persevere against overwhelming odds, the need for love still remains. Taking time for others may be inconvenient but it is essential in the overall restoration process. It is what was meant by the profound and life changing words of loving your neighbor as yourself.