Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment. In his answer, Jesus teaches us that there are two things we must do individually and collectively in order to live a life that glorifies God. First, we must love God; and second, we must love our neighbors as ourselves. Our love for God is vertical; our love for neighbor is horizontal, so we are called to live out a cross-shaped love.
Love is not simply an emotional attachment. We get emotional about politics, we get emotional about football games, we get emotional when we hear certain songs; but love is more than emotions, love is action.
Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person in which one gives oneself to another to bring the relationship to God’s intended purposes.
And you know what I’ve learned over the years? You can fake the vertical for a while and fool a few people, but you can’t fake the horizontal. God knows when you are faking and soon those close to you will know you are faking too.
Jesus says we are to love God with everything, but he doesn’t stop there; in order to display our love for God we are to love our neighbors.
These two commandments are an antidote for pride. Loving God and loving others keeps us from being infatuated with ourselves and creating idols of our preferences. Loving God and loving others causes us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and love people who don’t look like us or live like us. Loving God and loving others pushes us to live out a cross-shaped love that reflects the Savior who laid down his life in order to save you and me. Our vertical love for God is the basis for our horizontal love for one another. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV).
PRAYER PROMPT: Heavenly Father, our perfect example of love, teach us to be living epistles of cross-shaped love. May it start with your church and then overflow into our homes, and our communities.
Adron Robinson is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and president of the Illinois Baptist State Association.