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.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Loving God entails loving others. The two are inextricably bound—you cannot love God and NOT love others. It is the very depth of God’s character to love, and as believers, our character must reflect God’s character. In fact, God’s love does not limit us to loving only those who love us back, our family or close friends, or others who belong to the body of believers. Yes, we should love all the people in these categories. But Jesus goes much further in His command to love others. When asked, “Who is our neighbor?” He told a story about the Good Samaritan. In the culture of that day, the Samaritan was hated and seen as evil, especially by the religious leaders. But it was the Samaritan that stopped and helped an injured traveler on the road, while all the rest passed on by.
Jesus wanted to make it very clear. If we love God, then we need to love others just as God does. That means no filter—no weeding out the people we want to love from those we don’t. In other words, besides loving those that are easy to love, we are to love those we would naturally revile. We are to love the unlovely, the person we least admire, the person that hurt us or our family, the man or woman we have nothing in common with, and the person we dread the most. We are to love our enemies!
Why would Jesus command us to do such a thing? Because that is exactly what God has done for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And to make sure we truly understand what that means, Paul the Apostle emphasizes in Romans 5:10, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
God loved us when we were not only unlovely, but when we were His enemies. And it was this love—His sacrificial love—that saved us in the midst of our sinfulness.
Since the Lord loved us in this way, so we too, as His followers, are to love our neighbor (the sinful, unlovely, and enemy) in this way as well.
“Kind and loving to each other,
Gentle words to all we meet;
Thus we follow Christ our Savior,
Proving all His service sweet.”
—William J. Henry, “Love Each Other” (1900)
God, who is love, help us to love all others as you love us: generously, graciously, and limitlessly. In the name of the One who loved us enough to die for us, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.