Loving God and Neighbor

Love God“Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31

Our capacity to miss what is right in front of us is sometimes hilarious. Like the other day when I spent about five minutes looking for my glasses, only to discover them. On my face. Seriously.

But sometimes this same capacity to miss the obvious is tragic. Like what we’ve often done with Christianity. How did we ever turn this beautiful faith into a fence to keep some in and some out? Or a scale for judging some good and others bad? Or a dreary life of dry, dead obedience? Or membership in a religious institution?

The Christian faith (and I would maintain all of life) is about love. To be more precise, as Jesus put it, it’s about loving God and loving neighbor. In Jesus we discover with clarity the overwhelming love of God for us and all people, a love that blows our minds and our hearts upward and outward with love for God and neighbor.

And these two can’t be separated – love for God and love for neighbor.

If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (1 John 4:20-21)

The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Perhaps that’s why, when the religious scholar asked Jesus what the single most important commandment was Jesus seemed to give him two answers: love God and love neighbor. In reality they are one.

If you’re a Christ-follower please don’t miss what Jesus puts right in front of us. The love of God revealed in Jesus is for you and all people. Let that love blow your mind and your heart upward and outward with love for God and neighbor.

Not sure who your neighbor is? Watch this video from worship this weekend.

Interested in the spiritual practice that Pastor Paul Dean shared this weekend? You can find it here.

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

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