“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NLT)
By opening our heart, soul, mind, and strength to God, we open the pathway to loving others as we love ourselves. Have you ever asked, “How do I love myself?” I’m not sure how it is for you, but for me it’s selfishly, possessively, generously, undeservedly, lavishly and with much grace, mercy, and kindness.
What might our walk with God look like if we really loved others as we love ourselves? Eugene Peterson wrote: “Prayer is the way we work our way out of the comfortable but cramped world of self and into the spacious world of God.” The world in which we live feeds our ego and encourages us to maximize our selfishness, but to what end?
Ben Franklin said: A man wrapped up in himself is a very small bundle.” We’re born with an intense desire to make much of ourselves, but God’s most important commandment is that we should make much of God. But there’s more! The second, and in the words of Jesus – “equally important” commandment is – to focus an equal amount of energy and effort that we put into loving ourselves, into loving others.
A line from a Third Day song says: “You took my heart, and you changed it with your words of life. You took my eyes, and you opened them and gave me sight.” By God’s grace, the Spirit of God opens our heart and eyes to ways to love and serve Him, but He also seeks to open us up to ways to give expression to the love He’s investing through us to others.
The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize how much God loves me. Think about that for a moment. What is the most loving, sacrificial gift God has ever given you? His Son, right? So, what is the most reasonable response to God’s love for us as we give expression to His love through us to others? To tell them about what God has done for them through Jesus, right?
The only way anyone is ever going to escape the “cramped world of self” is to meet Jesus and allow Him to open their heart, mind, soul, and body to what knowing, loving, and serving Jesus looks like. Selfishness is diametrically opposed to who Jesus is and what He died to accomplish. The longer I walk with Jesus the more I realize my selfishness is allowing my friends, loved ones, neighbors, and others in my spheres of influence to miss heaven. How so?
To the extent I allow my own pride, fear, or desires of self-preservation and security to block my efforts to reach those who are lost, to that extent I’m held “liable” for their fates. Am I implying we will go to hell if we don’t warn them? No, but they might! Is it really worth the risk to allow that to happen? Not to me.
A.W. Tozer wrote: “Always, everywhere God is present, and always He seeks to discover Himself to each one.” To me that means that the Holy Spirit will illuminate and magnify our efforts to help others discover who He is, if we’ll allow Him.
I don’t know everyone who reads these posts, but I do know some of you and your life of loving sacrifice for the good of others, in terms of the efforts you make to make Jesus known in the lives of others, is exemplary and inspiring. I’m seeking to model in my life what I see in Jesus’ life and in the life of many I know who bear His holy Name. Thank you for living selflessly and sacrificially to the good of others and the glory of God. Thank you for showing me the way of escaping the cramped world of self.
Blessings, Ed 😊