The greatest commandment is to love. I thought it’s important to examine ourselves whether we truly now what love is; and is not.
Jesus explained so clearly how His relationship with the Father worked and demonstrated what our love should look like. It is like this chain of love that was started by God – Who is love – and in Him the Son dwelled daily. In fact this gave Him his direction, courage – His purpose. After His disciples saw this relationship as they followed Him they had a good idea of what it looked like. Then Jesus explained so eloquently in John 15 how He has also loved them the same and commands them to stay in Him and love each other as He stayed in the Father’s love.
- Considering the above, then, the first thing I want to say about love is that it is unconditional. Since love started with God, it is something that we receive and learn to do. Try as you may, you cannot earn it and you cannot change it. God loves you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
- Although it is unconditional, it is not limitless. At first glance it may seem contradictory, but we are speaking here about the practicality of love. Remember Jesus advised His disciples to kick the dust off of their shoes when they leave the town that doesn’t want to accept their message. Although love is a fact, it has to play out according to the rules of love. Beyond these rules you find what love is not. It is not allowing someone to do what they want – especially if it is destructive – it is more about helping someone to do what is best for them.
- Love is pro-active. We fall so easily into the mindset of going out and loving whoever crosses our path. We say: ‘Okay, God, I love You and today I am Yours. Show me who you want me to love today, and how.” It is this as well, but maybe love sits and wonders – how is the people in the townships coping with the winter cold or with the COVID 19 pandemic – and then asks his house cleaner about this or driving there and finding out from local institutions how to be of help or inventing a ventilator mask that could save suffering people. I think it is important that we realise that love is not passive.
- Love has many faces. Love is multi-dimensional. It has cognitive, behavioural, emotional and spiritual facets. You can feel in love with someone, you can think about it and know why you love this person or thing so much, you can do something for this person, because you love them so much and you can pray for that person, etc. It is with all of these faculties of ours that we love God first “…all your might, all you heart…” Therefore your love towards your 5 year old child will look different than your love for your 20 year old child, or your love for a homeless person will look different than your love for a sick person. Sometimes love may look like scolding someone over a destructive action or admitting a patient against his will when he is a danger to himself.
- You are the first person you must love. This chain that starts and ends with God is broken when you don’t play your part in loving yourself – “…love your neighbour as yourself.” Can you see that you can easily become the weak link that society so desperately depends on when you don’t understand how to love yourself? It makes sense if you think about it – you do for others as you want them to do unto you. If you make yourself the doormat for your work, always take on the extra work, never say ‘no’ and always deny yourself reward – you will expect the same from others. And you will grow extremely bitter, because others don’t ‘love’ as much as you ‘love’ them.
- Some will reason that they want to stay humble. Well, there is a fine line between humility and low self-worth. In fact, I believe that humility can become very hypocritical when you do unto others what you don’t want to be done unto you, like in the above examples. It is a pseudo-love, a projection of your own unmet need – and that need is ‘the loving arms of yourself.’ Jung understood this so well. He eloquently describes how the most difficult enemy to love is within – and this makes all the difference in how you empathise. If you cannot love others through loving yourself, you probably cannot have true empathy.
- Love takes more than one. You have to love someone, apart from yourself, it can’t exist in loneliness. God loves the Son, the Son loved the world, etc. That means we have to participate in this love – answer the question, take the rose, accept the gift and join the adventure. When you do this then a relationship is formed. ‘God loves you’ is the biggest reason for our hope and your answer to His question: ‘do you love Me?’ will be the most important answer you give in your life. Acting according to this love will be the most important command you ever obey.
John 15, 3:16