One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
There is another calling we have that come before the tasks God have called us to. It is the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. In there is two challenges and traps we may fall into. The first is the challenge it may be to love our neighbor: The people we meet in our everyday lives! The other is the challenge it may be to actually love ourselves as God have meant us to do!
I will begin with the last part of this task: To love ourselves. In this world, it seems that to love ourselves means to put yourself before everyone else. It is important that we do not go into this trap. Nor should go into the trap that we hate and dislike ourselves due to all the weaknesses we can see in ourselves. We need to learn what God sees in us, and what he loves to see in us. This is what we are supposed to love. This is the true core of who we are: The human God created us to be!
To love ourselves is an important condition to be able to love our neighbor as much as we are supposed to. If we hate ourselves, we will end up hating others. When we travel by plane, we are always told during the security briefing that we are supposed to put on our own oxygen mask first, before trying to help anyone else. This is because trying to help others; we may end up not being able to neither give help, or to help ourselves.
If we are to love others at the maximum, we also need to love ourselves at the maximum. But as I said before: To love ourselves have nothing to do about putting ourselves before others, but to see ourselves as God sees us!
Why is it so important to love our neighbor? What makes it so important that it come before the other tasks God have given us?
I mean the importance of this, is that is just that love for our neighbors is what is supposed to motivate our ministry! If our motivation come from other sources that our love for God AND the love for our neighbors, then the danger will always be that we either grow proud in ourselves, or we burn out.
I also believe that the love for our neighbors functions as a multiplicator or amplifier in the ministry we serve. When people see that we do what we do for them out of love, we end up having a much greater influence on their lives. If we want to be efficient in our ministry, we need to love those we serve!
Another reason that the love for our neighbor is so important in our ministry is that it gives our ministry substance, power, reason and cause. Feel free to read 1th Corinthians about what ministry and deeds done without love do us. Do we want to be like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal?
Therefore: Learn to know God. Get to know how much he loves you! Get to know how much he loves our neighbor. When you learn to know him, and learn to love Him who gave himself for you. Then you will not be able to not love those who he created. Then you will love the many lost daughters and sons of our beloved God and Lord! Then your heart will be filled by sorrow when you see the many who have been fooled, and you will be filled with a passion both for the people of God and the lost sheep!
Love Him, and love those He loves!
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4;20-21