The eighties might be the greatest musical decade ever, but I am showing my age this week! But Tina Turner’s question does seem to suggest that today we seem to have strayed so far from what love really is, we don’t really know what it is.
Read Matthew 22:34-40. Sometimes, if you look in our families, or around our community, or watch the news, or read social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that love is in short supply. And yet, Jesus says it’s the essence of who we are as human beings. When he was asked, which is the greatest commandment, what is our first purpose in life, he said it was to love God, but then went on to say:
Matthew 22:39 NLT
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.
Some have used the shape of the cross to explain what Jesus meant. You have the vertical connection – the command to love God – and the horizontal connection – the command to love others. The two are connected. Our love for God is the motive force behind our love for others.
In giving this answer, Jesus is quoting from Leviticus in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34). In Leviticus, loving your neighbour isn’t a way to fulfil your needs or to get something from someone. It isn’t about feeling good about yourself or furthering your career or about loving someone only when things are going well. Loving your neighbour, according to Leviticus, is about not harbouring anger at someone in your heart. It’s about not seeking revenge when someone wrongs you in some way. It’s about not bearing a grudge. It is about reasoning with them and gently correcting them when needs be.
How different would the world be if we learned to love our neighbours as ourselves? Sometimes, we are guilty of minimising loving them down to showing them a little random kindness or asking if they’d like to come to church. We feel, if we’ve done that, we’ve done our duty and obeyed Jesus’ command.
But which of us can say we have genuinely loved this way, yet? I know I can’t. In many ways, we are all beginners. We’re still learners on this lifelong journey. We are utterly reliant on God’s love for us and the power of his Holy Spirit to enable us to love others as we should.
THINK IT OVER
• How can you show true neighbourly love to someone today?