You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commands. Matthew 22:37-40
One would expect to be called to love God, but our neighbor? All people? That’s a different story. People are messy. People will hurt you. People will let you down. Loving God, okay, but people, I'm not so sure about. The ten commandments I can do, no problem. But love my neighbor?
The call to love isn’t an easy one. Jesus changed how we strive to be righteous from a checklist to having to check ourselves. Every action and interaction now must be accompanied by the question: “Am I doing and saying this out of love?” But this is what He asks of us. Jesus made it a point to prioritize our call to love our neighbor. So much so that it is just as important as our call to love God. No longer can one claim to love God but hate their neighbor.
1 John 4:20-21 tells us, “If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
No matter how difficult it may be, no matter how much the world hurts us, we are called to love. It is not a choice. Jesus was tortured and killed for a crime He didn’t commit, yet he loved them. He loved the men as they were whipping him, He loved them as they were driving the nails into His hands and feet and He loved them as they drove a spear into His side. He didn’t say it would be easy, but He said it was necessary.
Fortunately, we believe in a God who is love. The closer we grow to Him and the more we strive to follow Jesus, the more second nature loving people will become, even when it’s difficult. It is in these times that our “love for one another will prove to the world that you [we] are my [His] disciples”(John 13:35).
So as you go about your days, ask God to help you love people better. Ask Him to change the way you see the difficult people in your life. Then ask yourself how you can better love them.
Also, ask yourself how you can better love your friends and family. It can be as simple as having more patience or being more kind. Just allow God to fill you and then let His love flow out onto others.
Love each other. Just as I have loved you. John 13:34