Since the beginning of humanity, God has been telling us that loving Him was our top priority. Then, Jesus came and gave us a second major priority.
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS
Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment. Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. - Matthew 22:37-38
However, Jesus went further and gave us our second highest priority, as Christ went on to say: "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matthew 22:39
Since Jesus walked on the earth, we received this new imperative: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:34-35
Loving ourselves and each other is a directive for daily living and a guiding principle for all our human interaction and decision-making. Here are some practical applications of the Second Greatest Commandment:
Self-Love: First and foremost, to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must love ourselves like Christ loves us. Then, we are able to love our neighbor and better understand them. For me, my daily quiet time with Christ is critical for experiencing God’s love for me. By doing so, I am better able to love myself. Then, I find myself better equipped to love others.
Empathy: Empathy involves trying to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person. It requires taking the time to listen to others' stories, trying to see the world from their perspectives, and validating their right to their feelings. For me, I have to be patient and let people express themselves fully, by probing and asking questions. I find that being curious about someone else’s feelings really helps to become more empathetic. I also find I can’t take what people say at face value but have to ask questions to explore the "meaning below the meaning" of what they are saying.
Acts of Kindness: Whether it's helping someone with their groceries, volunteering at a local charity, or simply offering a word of encouragement, small acts of kindness can have profound impacts. As an aspiring leader, I realize that others are watching my behavior and are influenced by it. I need to be conscious of that fact and role model behavior for others to follow.
Tolerance and Acceptance: Embrace diversity. Understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds, has different beliefs, and faces unique challenges. Accepting and respecting these differences are crucial in truly loving our neighbors. For me, I need to suspend judgment of others. If I am judging someone, I can’t be loving them the way that Christ wants me to love them. It is not up to me to cast judgment on others; I need to leave that job to Jesus Christ and stick to my job of loving others with the non-judgmental love of Christ.
Forgiveness: Holding onto anger and resentment can be damaging not only to ourselves but to our relationships. Following Christ's example, we should strive to forgive others as we wish to be forgiven. For me, it is critical that I do not harbor resentments. It robs me of the ability to love others with the love of Christ. I must forgive others, even when they don’t ask for forgiveness, and especially when I don’t feel like forgiving them.
Charity: Whether through donating money, time, or resources, we have an opportunity to directly improve the lives of those around us. Charity is not about grand gestures; it is quiet, humble, and can be as simple as buying a meal for someone in need or giving away clothes we no longer wear. For me, it is important to realize that all resources belong to Christ. It is not my money or things. And, it is helpful to reflect that I will not take anything with me out of this world.
Building Community: Forming close-knit communities allows us to support each other in times of need. This can be achieved through neighborhood events, study groups, or any communal activity that promotes unity. For me, it means building deeper relationships with other men and couples, both those who are Christ-followers and those who are not. The Christ-followers will hold me accountable and help me grow. For the non-Christ-followers, Christ uses me to help them develop a personal relationship with Christ by developing a personal relationship with me, so they can be exposed to the teachings of Christ and have a positive example of what a Christ-follower is like. I love this saying: "It is by attraction, not promotion."
Spreading Love: In a world filled with negativity, spreading the love of Christ can be revolutionary. Simple gestures like sincerely complimenting someone, sharing uplifting stories of Christ’s provision for us, or simply being there for someone can make a huge impact. For me, the question is this: “Am I spreading my love in my strength, or am I spreading the love of Christ, by the power of Christ? If I am loving others in my own strength and own flesh, then my love is fatally flawed. If I am giving away the love of Christ, then I am spreading the love Christ commands me to spread.
The second greatest commandment encourages us to look beyond our differences and recognize the inherent worth in every individual. As we strive to incorporate this principle into our daily lives, we not only draw closer to God but also better model Christ. Let us remember the words of Jesus and make a conscious effort to love others, no matter who they are, with the all-powerful love of Christ. In doing so, we fulfill the essence of Christ Jesus’ divine teaching: “Love our neighbor as ourselves.” Amen.
Your aspiring servant, Daniel M.
October 30, 2023
POSTSCRIPT: Dear friends, if this daily, transparent “Conversations with Christ” blesses you, please go to www.SOLIDpastors.org, where you will find these posted, and a repository of all, in English and Spanish. Note: All scriptures quoted are from the NIV.
If you ever want to chat, you can reach me at Daniel@SOLIDpastors.org. May Christ bless you richly as you have your own intimate, daily conversations with Christ.