Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is the only way of fulfilling a relationship. Without love, relationships cannot exist and without relationship, there is no need for love. For love to change the world, three relationships are necessary:
- Loving God
- Loving ourselves
- Loving our neighbour
Jesus was asked the question: “What is the most important commandment?”
“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.” (Mark 12:29-31 NIV)
God’s plan is to change the world in which we live. Not through exercising his power, not by commanding us to live better lives, not through fear of punishment but by using his love, enabling us to love him, to love ourselves and to love those around us.
- God in three persons (the trinity) loves himself out of relationship.
- He loves us out of relationship (he created us).
- We can love him too out of relationship.
- This relationship enables us to love ourselves.
- We love those around us out of relationship.
God is love. His nature is love.
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16 NIV)
The whole thing starts with God loving his creation and making it possible for us to love him. Loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”.
When I was a child, I was told, “God first, then others, then myself”. But this is not what Jesus said. He said that we should love God first so that we can love ourself, and then love others. If we miss out loving ourselves we cannot really love God or those around us.
It is quite natural for me to love myself. We cherish our own bodies and protect ourselves from those who would hurt us. But as a child of God, that appreciation for myself takes on new meaning when I begin to love God and seek the good of those I come into contact with from day to day.
The relationship between God the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit is pure love. Does God expect anything of us that is not true of Him? God is love and loves his creation AS HIMSELF. So we too can love ourselves and then love others.
Loving my neighbour
We do not love our neighbour to be obedient to a command. Loving other people is not just about actions – but about relationship. Jesus told a story when he was asked, “Who is my neighbour?”
Our neighbour is anybody we come across or interact with as we live our lives. It could be:
- A driver who ‘cuts us up’ on the road.
- Our boss or workmate,
- The person on the other end of the ‘phone.
- The old lady living next door.
- The homeless man, lying in the shop doorway.
- The person on the news or the documentary we watch.
The ‘Good’ Samaritan
The Samaritan who helped the man who had been robbed didn’t think, “Now then I must help this man because God has commanded me to love him”. He put himself in the other man’s shoes and his heart went out to him and he had to do whatever he could to help. “If this was me lying there, I would hope that someone would come along to aid me in my distress.
Although there was no pre-existing relationship between the two men, a relationship was created once the Samaritan man put himself in the shoes of the other person (empathy). Although love involved actions, his first response was out of relationship.
The thought “If that were me” showed that he also valued (loved) himself. That was why Jesus said “Love your neighbour as yourself “. If he had low self-worth he could not have empathised with (loved) the other man.
It’s all about love. It is God’s way, it is his nature and we are included in that love. And love can change everything, as we respond to his love, learn to love him, learn to love ourselves better and begin to love everyone we come in contact with. I am not saying that without God we cannot care about other people. I can only speak for myself:
“Without a deep knowledge of God’s love for me, my love for myself would be restricted and my love for others would be limited to my family and friends. As I learn to love God my self-worth is increased and I can begin to empathise with strangers and to show something of his great love for them,”