And 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…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:28-34 (ESV)
Love is foundational to our life with God. When I began to fall in love with a young lady in college it changed my life. However, the relationship went to a completely different level when I understood that young lady also was in love with me. Knowing her love eventually took me to the place where I one day asked her to marry me, and my life with Kelly is probably the best thing that has happened to me outside of knowing Christ. This is similar to our life with God. It is one thing to want to know God. But everything changes when we understand just how great God’s love is for us. Knowing His love for us can take us to the place where our own lives become a response of love back to Him.
Yet, according to Jesus, that is not where love ends. Looking at Jesus’ words above, we see that our love for God is intimately connected to our love for our neighbor. These two loves have to get married. They fit together so closely that it is just wrong when they are divorced in our minds or in our actions.
The Apostle John makes this abundantly clear in his letters to some early churches. In one sense, he seems to go even farther, telling us that we cannot have love for God without love for others. He writes these blunt words: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). If we are truly trying our best to love God with our entire lives, then we will also try our utmost to love our neighbors as best as we can.
You see, the practical love we have for other people is a training ground and a proving ground for our love for God. Another way to say it is this: if you want some evidence of whether or not you love God, take a look at how well you love others. It is time for our loves to get married.
[This is a continuation of this week’s theme of “Beginning to Live with Love.”]