“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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12.30-31
The Great Commandment – we’ve done studies on it; we’ve heard sermons on it; it’s ingrained in the collective conscience of Christians from early on. As we smile and nod, we can recite it, swear by it and even settle theological disputes with it. But with a few notable exceptions, we don’t do it.
Love. Love with all you have. Love with all you are. Love passionately and fully. Love without hesitation or fear. Invest it all and love with abandon. Start with God. In the end, this is all that will matter.
Children love like this, with innocence and honesty, and as they grow up, adults, other children, and life itself work in tandem to steal their willingness to love. The thief comes to kill and to destroy… We build up barriers and place restrictions. We lower our expectations. We fail and fall short. We protect ourselves. We tell ourselves that it’s too late, there’s no hope, and we are too tired. We are full of pride, and we are consumed by fear. Day by day, year by year, we love less.
As C.S. Lewis once observed, “Our passions are not too strong; they are too weak. We are far too easily pleased.” We expect little of life, and we get it. We give little to life, and life gives little in return. In Jesus Christ, God has given us life, and His Spirit is poured out in our hearts in order that we may live, live fully and abundantly. We were not created for lives of meaningless consumption or mundane mediocrity. We were created to love and to be loved, starting with God.
Why is the ‘starting with God’ a repeated qualification? Because in this life, sin will hurt and near-destroy the heart’s capacity for love, either from within or without. However, if our love rests first in our Father, never do we love that the Spirit cannot triumph and restore. Love is from God, and no love is lost in Him; no love is ever rejected or humiliated or broken. If we are truly to love, we must learn to love in and through Christ, whose love is infinite and everlasting, a vast ocean of love that heals and restores and gives life.
Theologians and pastors go to great lengths to separate out various Greek expressions of love – eros, philos, and agape. While each of these are assigned to different types of relationships, they are just distinctions in the same theme – on living with passion and investing in others with abandon. The word Jesus uses here is agape – sacrificial, self-giving love for the good of the other. That sounds so costly, so negative and unappealing. Yet, that is exactly the point: give it all, give it without reserve, and give it readily. The Cross certainly was hell, but it was nothing by comparison to the Resurrection! Whatever the cost, however great the pain, never sell the resurrection short. Go for the resurrection – the abundance of life and love in Jesus Christ.
Somewhere along the line in Christianity, we began to postpone living until after death. The good stuff comes when we die. No doubt, we see dimly as in a mirror, but we do see if we look. While our resurrection is not complete in this life, loving is the means by which we start living the resurrection now. Jesus didn’t say “When you get to heaven, love then.” No, the command is to love now, love with our all, and love indiscriminately. If it lives and breathes, love it.
Sin has made us by nature a cautious, fearful people. We prefer the security of slavery in Egypt to the life of freedom in the Promised Land. When we choose caution over passion, we limit life. St. Irenaeus understood that, “The glory of God is a fully alive human being.” The glory of God is a fully alive human being – what fantastic meaning human life is given! God does not want us to be less; He wants us to be more! But every time we step back, every time we protect ourselves, every time we withhold love, we close a window on the glory of God.
This week is Valentine’s with all its sappy romance and sentimentalism, and in our society, a little perversion is sure to be thrown in the mix. So it goes. Sin is always the case with human nature; it’s what we do. Just smile, and then love. Love with all you have. Love with all you are. Love passionately and fully. Love without hesitation or fear. Invest it all and love with abandon. Start with God.
In Christ –
Ó Servants’ Feast Ministry 2007