“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Or, in other words, “love your neighbor just like you love yourself” or even a bit more expanded, “love other people…love the people within your reach…care for and serve them with all the same care you show yourself.”
It is a risky business to love someone else as much as you love yourself. To love more than one person as much as you love yourself just multiplies the risk.
However, while it is true that there is more than a small chance that the people you choose to love will not love you in return, that the people that you choose to care for will not care for you in return, the choice to love and to serve them can still be a rewarding choice to make.
You may choose to serve people who not only won’t repay you, but may not even thank you. You may choose to love people who are not even aware of the work you are doing to protect, serve, and improve their way of life.
Jesus actually encouraged this kind of radically generous love when He said,
“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.” – Luke 6
Was Jesus unaware of the risks involved? Didn’t He know that sometimes you would be rejected, taken advantage of, or otherwise used by people who have no intent of repaying your kindness or reciprocating your love?
The answer is that Jesus Himself risked it all, put it all on the table, and gave everything He had to love and to serve people everywhere — from every race, creed, culture, ethnicity, background, and identity. It made no difference — good or bad, loving or hateful, inspiring or hopeless. Jesus came to serve, to love, to heal, to restore, to encourage, to inspire, and to save all people for all time.
Jesus didn’t give it all He had, laying down His life so that just a few folks back in ancient times who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time could be saved. The fact is, Jesus died for you and everyone else, even if you reject, deny, oppose, or hate Him. Jesus is not afraid of your doubts, your fears, your anger, your disillusionment, your hatred, your disdain, or your baggage. Jesus is not put off by the risk of unrequited love. Jesus laid down His life willingly and He would do it again, just for the chance to reach you. And it is this kind of selfless drive, passionate persistence, and radical generosity that Jesus commands of those who follow Him.
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15
And so, it is right and good and meaningful to take a moment to consider and remember all those who serve and have served to ensure your safety, security, freedom, and lifestyle — or, as Thomas Jefferson described it, your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
It is important to appreciate the selfless love of so many who gave so much, so that you might have the opportunity to live in peace, prosperity, abundance, and joy.
Whether it is the fire fighter who was rushing up the steps of the world trade center to save one more life as the towers fell or the teacher stepping into the line of fire to protect her students at Sandy Hook, or any of the thousands of other examples of military, law enforcement, emergency personnel and more — so many knowingly stepping into harms way to set right situations gone wrong — civilization is built upon this willingness of individuals to consider the benefit to the community first and love others just as much as they love themselves.
So, as you fire up the grill and light the tiki torches, as you pick up your rod and reel or roll out your picnic blanket, wherever you find yourself today, take a moment to stand in awe and wonder at the love that makes it all possible. Take a moment to thank those who serve you so faithfully and so well. Take a moment to appreciate the compassion and the mercy of those defending truth, justice, liberty, and the rule of law for people all over the world. And…
…take a moment to consider the selfless devotion and intense personal commitment of a savior who gave His life to preserve yours, and pray this prayer with me right now:
“Jesus, I am filled with joy to overflowing. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you for loving me. I know I’ve made mistakes and things have not always gone well for me. I’ve got more baggage, as you know, than I can easily explain. I know that I don’t deserve and could never earn this love that you have for me, which is why I am so excited that you love me so much! I can’t explain it, but I can’t refuse or deny it anymore. You have offered me so many promises, so many blessings, so much joy and abundance and fulfillment and peace I’m deciding to say yes from here on out. I’m yours. I open my life, my baggage, my hurts, my failures, my defeats, my brokenness — everything, I open it all to you. I’m yours God. I accept you. I want to know you. I’m ready to love you, embrace you, and receive everything that you have to offer for the rest of my life. Your promises for me are sure, your vision for me is good, your blessings for me are constant and so I am accepting your life as my life, your way as my way, your truth as my truth, your mission as my mission, your purpose as my purpose, and your love as my love. I’m not afraid anymore. I’m ready to make a difference. I’m ready to bring your presence, your power, your love, and your light where it is needed most. I’m ready to learn. I’m ready to listen. I’m ready to grow. I’m ready to change. I’m ready to be born again. Let’s do this thing!”
If you prayed that prayer, I believe you were born again. So, get with a local community of Bible believing Jesus followers. Make the choice to walk with them, serve with them, rejoice with them, learn with them, and love with them and Jesus is going to take you places you’ve never even imagined.