The Christian life is not selfish. It is one where we embrace two very important commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
These commands need the grace of God. How can we do them when our fickleness, moods, and mistakes get in the way? One day we find ourselves filled to the brim with loving God, people, and having faith for miracles; the next, we wake up feeling normal—too normal—that we think: was yesterday a fluke?
Let’s discuss the first part of the verse. Loving God is more than a feeling. It is a decision. There is a lot of faith involved when we stand on the truth that God is real, He doesn’t leave us, and that He loves us so much. Regardless of how we feel, we can choose to love Him back.
It is true that loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds is a big thing. In fact, it feels like an impossible thing! This is where grace comes in. We cannot rely on our feeble strength to love God. For one, our love cannot match His. (Compare our love to His with the size of a fingernail and the size of the sun!) God’s love is so big that it’s baffling; we don’t understand His decisions sometimes. For example, we probably have never thought of the possibility of dying for a friend or a stranger or an enemy, but this is something that Jesus did. He died to save us from sin. Also, do our minds consciously love God every minute of every day? Do we think of him every minute? The attention of our brain flies like butterflies!
I embrace this verse knowing that my God is my Father. Yes, He’s BIG. Yes, I don’t understand Him all the time. (In fact, there are days when I am very open to Him about my frustrations!) Yes, He loves me more than I can ever love Him back. But simply being his daughter, turning my eye toward Him, and saying “I love you,” melts His heart. I can play in His presence, work in His presence, and in all that, know that I am loving Him. I don’t have to “count” my love for Him with every minute that passes. When He sees me loving Him, what He sees is perfect love (Christ’s love perfecting mine) covering my inadequacies.
Remember: perfect love casts out fear. There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18).
Seeing God as our Father should take off any performance mentality we have of love. Whatever good work we happen to do is an overflow of our love for our Father; not our basis for our love for Him.
The next part of the verse, which is love for our neighbor, is also something that needs grace. Love my neighbor as myself? First of all, do we love ourselves enough? I am not referring to a proud view of ourselves where we think more highly than we ought to. Rather, I am referring to seeing ourselves the way God sees us, and loving ourselves for who God made us to be. For us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we should know how to love ourselves.
Many times, we forget to take care of ourselves. We abandon rest so we can get all our deadlines done. We skip meals, we don’t buy ourselves the right clothes, we don’t give time to make ourselves presentable. Does that honor God? Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), so we must take care of ourselves.
Since man is a tri-partite being—body, soul, and spirit—then we should not abandon caring for all three parts of us. To take care of our bodies is one thing, but how do we take care of our soul and spirit? The soul is the seat of our emotions and will/ decision making. Have we paid attention to our emotions? What are the things that make us come alive? What are our dreams? Doing something to care for our souls can be as simple as riding a bike or flying a kite. It can also be as complex as starting a company. Now, how about our will? Is there wisdom in our wills and knowledge backing up our decisions? (This is one reason why school should be taken seriously!) The third part of man is the spirit. How do we love our spirits? We can feed our spirit by reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, and basking in God’s presence.
When we are able to love ourselves, it becomes easier to love others. We are able to touch their lives with our identity intact. We are loving them not because we need affirmation for who we are, but because we already know who we are: sons and daughters of the King. We know the things that would touch their hearts, uplift their spirits, and beautify their person. We can love them properly and point them to Jesus, Love Himself.
As we go through our everyday, let us love and live fully and dearly. We should have freedom in loving God with everything we are. We should have freedom in loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, too.
Janina Marie Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine, a teacher of world literature, and a student of the Bible. She enjoys reflecting on life’s curve balls and plateaus. She resides in the Philippines, the country known for people who smile a lot.