The greatest thing we can do in life is love. There are three qualities of life that make living wonderful and human – faith, hope and love … but “the greatest of these is love.” Faith allows us to live above the normal tenors and tones; hope is the stuff of confident and believable dreams. But love ties us to other time travelers with cords of immeasurable strength, deeper emotion, and superior thought.
Can love be commanded, or demanded of us? Some think not. Maybe most think not … And so, if someone were to command love, or command anything, there are those who would resist loving, or whatever, just to retain control of their life. But, arguably, the greatest Man to ever live said that we are commanded to love – and we are to do it in ways that bring love its fullest expression and fulfillment.
That Man, Jesus Christ, was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” and He replied that the greatest commandment was to love God. He then volunteered the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbors. He concluded that all the commandments (to not steal, murder, lie, covet, etc.) hung on these two – loving God and loving our neighbors.
Some people think Jesus actually suggested a third commandment when He said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. The actual quote is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But Jesus was not saying, or commanding, that we should love our selves. He was just pointing out that we should love our neighbors … anyone who crosses our path in life … to the same degree that we love ourselves because He knew that no human being (generally speaking) would have a problem loving themselves.
I really want to explore what it means to “love” God, and I’ll do that in another column, but today I want to write about loving others.
We humans long to be loved, and give love. Like a puzzle lacking its most significant piece, we have a hole in our hearts that is shaped for love. We have it in our DNA – to be loved by someone, and to express love to someone. Like boiling water in a tea kettle on a hot stove, we want – we must release this pent up something … this emotion that is in us and of us. And we want to have love returned to us in a genuine way. And that is a key thought, too, don’t you think? Don’t we all want to be genuinely loved and authentically love someone else?
That said, you might think that loving others comes naturally. … but it doesn’t. Loving is an acquired taste. But once it is delightfully experienced, it’s addictive. Loving others is a learned skill. So, I suggest that if it wasn’t commanded, we might only drink in love, hoping not to spill a precious drop. (For example, if parents don’t model it, children won’t do it naturally, because it’s MORE natural to be self-centered and selfish. With our first infancy cry, we demand to be taken care of. From birth WE COMMAND others to love us, and we do so with our incessant grasping and howling.) Loving, like sharing, must be taught.
My Mom and Dad, Retha and Claude, loved each other, and in so doing created an atmosphere in our home that encouraged loving. We saw their love, felt their love, and then wanted what they had. That’s when they began the teaching process. Mom and Dad taught us to love.
Got a question for you. In all our talking about love, are we first loving?
Think about it.
(pictured above – Brandon, April 1, 2008)