This past weekend, my brother, (Rev. Michael McIntosh, Jr.) facilitated a series of incredible discussions about loving thy neighbor during our family reunion. For today’s devotion, I’d like to share my thoughts and encourage you to continue to the conversation on loving thy neighbor with your loved ones.
Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)
The Bible Says... “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law’. Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”
Just A Dash
Over the last two years, I have been making an effort to love myself more. I figured if I was operating at my best and loving myself, then those efforts would naturally impact the relationships I had with those around me. There have also been times when I didn’t feel worthy of love or I didn’t understand how to love myself. In those times, I tried to pour love into others first in hopes that the love and care that I was trying to pour into them would somehow find its way back to me. I’ve seen this same pattern in friends, family, and in so many others who I’ve had an opportunity to interact with. Reading through this passage got me thinking:
What if we’re struggling so much because the root of our problem is that we’re trying to love “out of order”?
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus explained that the greatest commandment of the Law is to “Love the Lord your God” and second to that is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV). This establishes a sort of “hierarchy of love” with God at the top, followed by self, and then others. In other words, we can’t love others without loving ourselves, and loving ourselves should be second to our love for God. We can’t know how to love ourselves without first loving God and understanding His love for us. This denial of one’s self to love another is an example that God set perfectly when He gave His only Son so that we could have eternal life (read John 3:16).
To love God with your heart, soul and mind requires that you take the time to develop and nurture a relationship with Him. We strengthen our relationship with God by spending time in His presence, learning about Him, serving Him, and remaining in fellowship with Him. In fact, this is the same way that our human relationships are developed. We spend time getting to know people and as those relationships progress, we find ourselves wanting to serve those people and spend more time in fellowship with them. With time, out love for others deepens and begins to look more and more like the love God shows us.
A Pinch More
Sometimes, we find it difficult to love our neighbor as ourselves, because we haven’t even determined what it looks like to love ourselves. If you’re having trouble loving yourself, consider the reasons (and the ways) God demonstrates His unconditional love for you. God is the perfect example of what love is and also how to love. God’s love for us is marked by service and sacrifice, so our love for our neighbors should be reminiscent of the same service and sacrifice.
I don’t know about you, but when I consider how much God continues to show His love for me, despite all that I am not, it makes me think, “If God can love me beyond my faults, then I can love me too”. If God can forgive me for my poor choices and allow me to grow past who I used to be, then I should be willing to forgive myself. That same forgiveness, grace, and love should then be passed on to those around me.
Q: On a personal level, how does God demonstrate His love for you?
Q: What does self-love look like for you right now? What do you do to show yourself love?
Q: What steps can you take this week to show the love of God to someone else?
Continue Reading John 3:16
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
A special thank you to:
Rev. Michael McIntosh, Jr. for sharing your vision for the World Café and to The Goldm@n Family, for your lively discussions and insight during our service.