In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. But in the New Testament, Jesus takes it to the next level when He challenges us to love others as we love ourselves. The only way we can do that is to first understand God’s love for us and love Him in response — so that we can turn around, love ourselves, and love others in the same way.
There’s an old song that goes, “…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Notice how it doesn’t say “by our clothes”, or “by our cars”, or “by our careers/cash worth/college degrees”! The world will know we love God when they see us loving each other — even those we don’t necessarily get along with or like. When we love one another we demonstrate to the world the love God has for them — and we’re able to love them because He first loved us.
The world teaches us that how we love others is dependent on how they love us first. But Jesus teaches us that how we love others is dependent on how He first loved us! When we have a healthy relationship with the Lord, and we fully grasp and accept His love for us, we can’t help but love others with the same kind of selfless and unconditional love He showed us first.
It feels good to receive God’s amazing love…but if we’re honest, do we always reflect that love back to Him and to others? When we understand God’s incredible love for us, we can’t help but love Him back! And it’s out of joy, not out of guilt or obligation, that we serve Him — by loving other people the way He first loved us.
Jesus was asked what the greatest Commandment in all of the Law was, and He replied that they all boil down to these two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart/soul/mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40) When our love for God is aligned vertically, we can’t help but see that love spill out onto anyone else we come in contact with, especially the other members of God’s family!