“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”– Matthew 22:36-40
Jesus tells us the most important command – the command that sums up the law and prophets – is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. He follows it up by telling us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
As Christians, loving God is essential. To love him means to serve him, trust him, obey his commands, accept him and pursue his heart with all that you are. It is also critical to love others, and this is often where we fall short.
What Is Love?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
The divorce rate in the United States today is about 45 percent and three out of five Americans say they feel lonely. Our society is struggling to figure out what love actually is, but as Christians, we don’t have to be confused. Our God has made it crystal clear what love is in Scripture and by sending his Son to die for us. Being patient, kind, humble, obedient, truthful, trusting, hopeful, strong, selfless and generous are just a few characteristics of a loving person (1 Corinthians 13).
It is impossible to do all these things all the time. We are born with a sinful nature and God knows that. He gave us Jesus to show what perfect love is, and his death and resurrection allows us to be forgiven when we fall short of that perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God Is Love
Love is complicated and confusing, but when you pursue God, learn his heart and seek to know him better, you will naturally learn more about love. How? Because God is love.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8
God loves us unconditionally. Yes, even the God of the Old Testament who punished people in his righteousness and allowed nations to be destroyed – he loves us. He disciplines and makes us wait as he teaches hard lessons because he loves us (Proverbs 3:11-12). Love is the essence of who God is.
Love Is an Action
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – James 2:14-17
Love is more than saying you love someone or refraining from hateful action towards others — love is an action. Love is providing a shoulder to cry on and fighting for someone’s rights. Love is caring for widows and orphans, helping the homeless find homes and providing for the poor. Love is active.
Romans 12:9-21 is titled “Marks of a True Christian” and it is all about action. People will know we are Christians by how we love, and by the grace of God, they will find Jesus through our love (Matthew 5:16).
Love Your Neighbor
We often forget that part of loving God is loving all the people he created. If you really want to love God and obey him, you must also love your neighbor, his creation. Going to church, reading your Bible and surrounding yourself with godly people are endeavors worth pursuing because they help you grow in your faith and love God. Keeping truth, grace and love to yourself is a waste. We are called to share God’s gifts with others (Psalm 40:10).
Love can save and heal. By speaking the truth of the Gospel with someone, you can save them and that is perhaps the greatest way to show love. Love is what we are called to as Christians and love is what this world needs.
Love Like Jesus
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” – Matthew 18:12-14
When Jesus walked this earth, he did not care about the approval of those around him or how culturally-accepted his actions were. He loved. He associated with a tax collector and a thief (Luke 19:1-10). He advocated for and saved an adulterer (John 8:1-11). He spent his time with sinners and the people that society despised. Jesus still seeks the lost, ignored, abused and unaccepted.
Jesus’ greatest act of love was dying on the cross for our sins. He didn’t just say he loved sinners – he suffered humiliation and an agonizing death to show that he loves us (John 3:16). His death atoned for the sins of mankind. What greater love is there than this (John 15:13)?
We watch people live in sin, fall from the faith, be abused, experience loneliness and turn to things that cannot bring contentment. Why do we do that? Do we fear being judged for being friends with 'bad' or different people? Jesus didn’t care about appearances; he cared about the person and their character. Is it because we don’t know how to help? The Holy Spirit is in you and God has equipped you (John 14:26). Is it because we think they are too far gone? Our God is a God of miracles (Psalm 77:14). Do not be afraid to love.
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20
What if we loved without limits? What if we walked with someone in their pain? What if we met addicts, adulterers and criminals where they are? Can you imagine what this world would be like if we were as forgiving and loving as Jesus? Perhaps more people would believe in Jesus and be saved. Isn’t that something worth taking action for?
What is stopping you? Jesus wants you to love your neighbor and show it, not just say it. So, do it. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
Grand Canyon University is committed to following the Lord in all circumstances. If you would like to learn more about GCU’s Christian identity and mission or would like to read more devotionals please visit our website and check out the GCU Blog. Learn more about the College of Theology and its degree options by checking out our website or requesting more information with the button on this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.