"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
- Matthew chapter 22, verses 37-40
Love is in the air. Many are rejoicing in this season by posting celebratory Instagram and Facebook statuses. Others hide away, heartbreak or loneliness too close to the surface. Then there are people like me who find themselves somewhere in the middle.
I have moments of sadness because I don't have someone special. Other moments I forget the day is here and just move forward, business as usual. Then there are the other moments where I "like" someone's profession of love and rejoice in their happiness with bubbly giggles as they tell me what they've got planned to celebrate their special someone.
While Valentine's Day comes once a year, we as Christ's followers are called to live our whole lives with love. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he summed it all up in love. Jesus also tells his disciples that his followers will be known by their love for one another. The bible also tells us perfect love casts out all fear – because fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
What if we all took a moment to stop and really reflect on what this means? Is the body of Christ loving? Do we love God with our whole heart, mind and soul? Do we lay down our rights and desires to put God first? Are we known by the world for our love for one another? Have we let love perfect us or do we still live in a place of fear and punishment?
How can we love fully in every moment?
Jesus' greatest command was that we would live from love. Resting in the love He's lavished on us and letting the overflow of that love be what touches those around us. Sounds simple, but I know it's something I've struggled with. I see the way people live their lives and find myself critiquing their choices. Or wishing I had what they did. If I'm brutally honest with myself in these moments, I am judging them and I am ultimately setting myself over them as ruler and judge.
But that's not my place.
I was commanded to love.
What does it look like to love practically?
When I humble myself and ask this question to the only One who has the right to be Judge and Ruler I am often reminded of a quirky little character from one of my favourite books.
Mr. Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. If you're not familiar with this wonderful wee Hobbit, I highly recommend you become acquainted.
There's a part of his story that challenges my pride. He's standing alone at the edge of Mordor, a desolate and evil land. He thinks his master and best friend has died and he's taken on the responsibility of carrying the ring of power to its destruction, but something happens.
The ring tempts him. Sam is a gardener and when he looks out over the dark, decaying land he must cross the temptation to put the ring on is almost overwhelming. He knows if he puts the ring on his finger he will become Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age and be known worldwide for his transformation of Mordor into the greatest garden Middle Earth has ever seen. His pride swells at the thought and his judgement of the evil land sways his resolve to destroy the ring.
Then Tolkien writes the most precious words. ". . . it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm . . ."
Love gave him endurance.
If only all of us would live this way more. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw someone whose life was different than ours and instead of letting walls of judgement build between us we saw them through God's eyes and lived out the command he gave us?
What if we were able to look at every person the way we look at our loved ones? Wouldn't it be exactly what Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Good Samaritan? What if we were able to let God be the Judge and Ruler while we did what we're meant to do – love?
To live out this command won't always be easy because I'm going to have to lay down the misconception that I have the right to judge those around me. I have to lay down the right to defend myself when people condemn me. I have to make sure I'm not building a wall with lists against people and the hurts they've caused. I have to be patient with the people in my life. I have to be kind, even when I disagree with the way people live.
It means I can't brag about myself or grumble and complain that other people have better things than me. It means I have to remember I'm not higher or more important than those around me. It means I must bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things.
This kind of life is tough but one that's worth our time.
As the chocolate goes on sale, the flowers begin to wilt and the stores take down the pink and red decorations how about we challenge ourselves to love. To love with endurance. To let the raging storms of life come at us and not be able to move us from our command. To keep our hearts soft because it is our biblical mandate.
We are commanded to love, so let's be known by our love for one another.
Written by Charis Joy Jackson
Previously written for Christian Today