This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I find this to be simultaneously the best and the hardest of everything Jesus taught. The first part is so appealing. The second part can be so challenging. The first part forces me to look up. The second part forces me to look out.
One cannot complete the first part, loving God, without also completing the second part, loving others. When I love God, I expect that he will love me back. I know this because he sacrificed everything for me even when I continued to run from him. He was and is relentless in his pursuit of my soul. I have much work to do in order to love him with all my heart, soul and mind. And yet I know that he continues to change me and mold me. The potter will continue to work this lump of clay until it is just as he desires.
Loving others goes hand-in-hand with loving the Lord. It is a fascinating juxtaposition of faith and works, of word and deed, of heavenward and hell-breaking, of justice and mercy. From the very beginning, God desired that the Spirit fill the earth. As Christians we know how our sin broke that perfection. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ restored what was broken and now we can again have a right relationship with God, the Holy One. And that is the beginning of why I find this second commandment so intriguing and challenging. Christ placed equal value on loving others with loving God. Stated this way, it almost sounds heretical. How can anything have the same value as loving God? CS Lewis explained this so succinctly in his sermon Weight of Glory.
“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”=
Do I treat others as if they are “holy in almost the same way”? Far too often, no. I too often complain about a neighbor. I am too casual with a neighbor. I do not respond quickly and seriously to a neighbor. I put off a neighbor until it is convenient for me. What would change if I viewed my neighbor as if Christ is in him or as if Christ is pursuing her? Would I then be part of the means by which the Holy Spirit fills the earth? Would I then see and be the evidence of Christ’s prayer “your kingdom come”?
CS Lewis continued, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
All that we know and see and experience is temporary, but the Lord has so much more for the people. It is tempting to dehumanize the eternity of others by reducing them to the abstract soul. Our neighbors? We know them. We see them daily. We interact with them over the fence. We see them on the street. We hear them talk in the backyard. And the Lord loves them. Do you?
Cody Haar is an associate pastor of Cornerstone Church.