You’re probably able to walk around your own home in the middle of the night without bumping into things. You know where your furniture is placed. Perhaps there is some amount of light from an outside street lamp or even the moon. Everything is in black and grey until the sun rises revealing the full colors and shapes of the items in the room.
This is how I have felt the past few weeks as I’ve been contemplating a command given to the people of God in Deuteronomy 6:5, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” In Leviticus 19:18 we read, “…love your neighbor as yourself.” In a conversation recorded in the New Testament, Jesus reiterates the importance of these commands.
We are not surprised by the commands. We agree with them and do our utmost to obey them. We sincerely ask God to help us to love Him and our neighbor in a godly manner. We strongly desire to carry it out and we make a plan to do so. Since we humans are bound by a 24 hour day, we naturally have to work according to the hours given to us. We have a time to work, play, and sleep. In our spiritual world it is understandable that we do the same. We plan which hour we will spend with God and which hour we will serve our neighbor and which hour we will work, etc.
It is concerning the above, which hour is devoted to what, that the lights came on, revealing color to my shaded understanding. Excitement began to bubble inside! You see, it is indeed right to set aside time to spend with God; time in which we meditate on His Word and consider how to apply His truths to our lives. It is also right that we plan our hours to work and to minister to our neighbor. However, it is a mistake to separate the point of loving God from loving our neighbor.
If we practice loving the Lord our God as a separate entity from loving our neighbor, we will be carrying out the command but our success will only be partial. It has wonderfully dawned on me that the two are actually one. It is as we focus on loving God with all our being, give all of ourselves to Him, long for Him above all else, that something life altering happens — we begin to love as God loves.
It is only in loving Him with all our heart, mind, and strength that love for our neighbor is then supernaturally enhanced. God is pure love. When we focus wholly on loving Him, our hearts begin to take on the characteristics of His love. We take on ability to love as He loves, and how does He love? “For God so loved the world He gave His only Son..” It only stands to reason that when you and I begin to draw the love of God into our own hearts, we too, will so love that we give. We may still plan our day; we have to do so as we are captured into a 24 hour time frame, but we will not struggle so much to “do good to our neighbor;” it will be a natural outpouring of the love of God within us. God’s love cannot be contained. It is a love that gives. It is a love that forgives.
Goodness can be expressed to our neighbor but pure love can only be given when our hearts are merged into the heart of God.