“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
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. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
During Lent, we often try to enact changes to our habits we perceive to be deficits in our character or Christian life. Last week, we took a look at some changes in what we called “soul-care”. We also mentioned this week’s joy building practice is serving others. The first and Greatest Commandment is To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Jesus set the groundwork for how we should live our lives when he gave us this rule. He follows with the second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. This is our guidepost for how we should live our lives. In this one sentence, Jesus gave us the rules that sum up how Christians are to live.
When we love God, as He asks us, we move closer to God and are better prepared to live our lives how God commands. As discussed in our post about Agape love, God is love, and it’s when we have a deep and meaningful relationship with our Lord that our love then grows naturally to all of His children, our neighbors.
Jesus taught us that in loving our neighbor we also must be a neighbor. In scripture, we can find references to the importance of loving the people around us. In the Book of John 15:9-7, we read,
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
When we love God and our neighbors as ourselves we are joyful.
How can we joyfully care for our neighbors during Lent and always as Christians?
The first and most important way you can love the people around you is to pray for them. In Matthew 7:12, we learn we must do things we would want people to do to us. This means, as Christians we can rarely be spectators, we must take action. We can't merely say and speak words of love, we must show them and actively live in love.
Consider your neighbors, the people that live next door. Do you know who they are? If you don't, dedicate some time to reach out to them. Show you care about them in tangible ways. It needn't be in big gestures. Sometimes small acts are more meaningful. Notes of encouragement, gifts of baked goods, or shoveling the snow for your neighbor are great ways to show you care in physical ways. Finally, be there for your neighbors. When your neighbors need help, offer it generously, expecting nothing in return.
Because God is love, love is ultimately the distinguishing feature that tells the world we are Christians.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
So who else do we love? Who else is our neighbor?
This answer is easy.
It’s putting our love into action, where things can get tricky. It's fairly easy to love our neighbors. However, when Jesus gave us this commandment, He didn't stipulate who we didn't have to love because we should love everyone. This includes the people who have hurt us, and who have wronged us. This also means we are called to love the people who need Jesus most. The cruel, the criminals, the really bad people... In short, anyone who may have turned away from God. (Matthew 5:43-47, Luke 6:27-35)
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
We can grow to be more joyful by showing our love to the people our society often shuns and who are in most need of our love, such as the disenfranchised, the homeless, the sick, the poor, and the elderly.
Jesus gave us the Greatest Commandment because He knows it would lead us to joy. Joy in this lifetime and our eternal life with God. Beyond the benefit to our souls acting as He wills us to, we should do these things because by doing so, we show Him that we love Him. His love is what inspires our love. Go out today and love and serve the people around you and see how it affects the joy you feel.