“I love you Daddy!” My little girl Hadassah came running up to my desk and gave me a big hug. Then she plopped down in my lap, eyed my chocolate raisins sitting on the desk, threw her arms around my neck and gave me a sweet little look. “Daddy, what is that in your jar? What are they for?” I laughed at her schmoozing and let her have a handful. Off she ran, stopping at the door to give me a wink and another “I love you Daddy!”
Matthew 22:36-40 details very simply the two greatest commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
So what exactly was Jesus calling us to when He said that? My daughter Hadassah really does love me, but in the story I shared, how might her reaction have been different had I told her that she may not have the chocolate raisins? As humans, we find it naturally easy to show and express love when we get the chocolate raisins, but we don’t tend to love very well without them. Yet Jesus’ way is so much bigger than that. He is calling us to love others the way that he loved us. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NKJV).
It is easy to love when it is reciprocated. That feels great! But the call is higher for a follower of Christ. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a NKJV). Obviously, for us as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to love with abandon, without regard to the response.
I’ve been so convicted as I’ve read the Bible and realized that my love isn’t what is described. Sadly, I don’t spend nearly as much time loving people who won’t be able to reciprocate my love as I do loving people who give it back. People like my family, my church, and my friends all give back to me when I am loving towards them. But what about the homeless people who live across the street and won’t ever repay my love in any way? What about the folks that need Jesus desperately, and yet are angry that we share Jesus with the people in our neighborhood? The people that need our love the most often are the very ones we forget about, ignore and avoid.
As followers of Jesus, one of our primary goals is to help others see who Jesus is. I cannot think of any more powerful way for that to happen in our neighborhoods than for us to love in the way the Bible describes. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).