It’s not new information to most of us. Love God, Love Others. Jesus’ famous words, spoken the night before he was going to go through with the greatest sacrificial act of love for all of humanity, the one that changed the world forever. Love God, Love others. Everything God had been doing since the beginning of time and that Jesus taught and did hung on this idea. Love God, Love Others.
It’s been said and taught and heard and sung and written so many times that these words sometimes lack the radical, life-changing effect with which they were first intended. Love God, Love Others. Get that right, and you’re good. Get that right, and you are living how God wants you live. Get that right, and you’re loving like Jesus loves. Love God, Love Others. It seems so simple. But it’s not.
The facet of Love God, Love Others about which I’m learning these days is not one I want to learn. It’s annoying, difficult and frustrating. It gets in the way of what I want to do and say. I don’t know how to do it sometimes. And I mess up. A lot. It’s based on infusing the characteristics of love we read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 through the filter of what Paul says only three chapters earlier in that same letter.
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (10:23-24)
It’s the kind of love that seeks to meet the needs of others even it means that your own needs feel unmet, trusting that God will meet your needs in his ways and in his time. It’s the love that lead Jesus to the cross, even when he asked God if there was another way that he could accomplish what he was sent to accomplish. It’s the kind of love that sometimes hurts because it calls for sacrifice. And sacrifice, by definition, means that something dies, and when something dies, it hurts, even if it’s merely the loss of control, a schedule, a few dollars, some pride or a little convenience. It’s love that goes against our nature. It’s Loving God, Loving Others like Jesus did. And I’m not consistently good at it.
What I’m good at is acting like I love well. I’m good at scheduling to love others and prioritizing my own valid needs ahead of the needs of others, couched in a way that doesn’t look nearly as selfish as it really is and disguised by boundaries and social norms or expectations. I’m good at controlling the way that I love others from what my perspective defines as love.
Loving not on my own terms, including whoever it is that God wants me to love, has bothered me more than I’d prefer to admit. It’s showing me that although I like to sometimes secretly give myself a gold star in the caring-for-others category, if I really want to Love God, Love Others like Jesus did it means that it’s not really ever on my own terms.
I’m noticing where and when I don’t quite get this right, which is good…as in good for me. If I were able to do this perfectly on my own all the time, I’d be in complete control and wouldn’t need Jesus’ help. I wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit living in me. And I wouldn’t have to trust God for the outcome. Also, when I fail to love and have to try again, I can only do so because of trusting that God is in control of the outcome – not me – and that his grace is sufficient, which is beautiful. All because Jesus first Loved God, Loved Others.
There’s no story yet to tell of how this pays off in the long run – how a relationship was healed, how trust in the Lord launched a new career or how my prayers were answered exactly the way that I’d hoped – because it’s only recently that circumstances colliding have made me so aware of this amazing way that I can Love God, Love Others. And, so far, it’s been fun but messy. I’m starting to become more aware of opportunities to trust God with my own needs by putting the needs of others first and have sometimes been more defiant than obedient, afraid that if I don’t do things my way and on my timeline that it won’t be OK. Those are the places where I’m learning about grace.
The good news is that God isn’t leaving me in that place. He doesn’t leave me stumbling around in the dark and running into walls. No, he loves me too much for that. He keeps opening doors and showing me how to love, taking both little and big risky steps, remembering that there might just be something great that he’s trying to show me as I continue to learn more about what it means to Love God, Love Others.