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Controversial Dive Into Loving God and Our Neighbor

When Jesus offers the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, He is not only asking us to be kind to others, He is also reminding us of our selfishness. 

Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Can We Love God Like That

Does anyone really believe we can love God with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength? As born-again believers we remain sinners, yet saved by God’s grace. There is nothing we do that fully consumes every aspect of our being, even loving God. This verse is offered by God as an unattainable goal or direction for our lives. The goal is to be so intimate with Him that we continually move closer and closer to an all consuming love, not based on all the ministries we are involved in or the number of days we are at the church, but instead, focused on a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Recognizing that, we also need to accept that we will never get fully to that point on this side of the grave.

Can We Love Our Neighbor Like That

I have often wondered about the phrasing. “ love your neighbor as yourself”. Of all New Testament (perhaps the whole Bible), God places loving Him first, and our fellow man second, as the two greatest commandments for the believer. 

Interestingly however, unlike loving Him, He puts limits on loving our neighbor. God defines it only to the degree we love ourselves. This seems to suggest a much deeper theological point than just a command to care for others.

Within the verse there is a clear admission that man is steeped in pride, which is a sin (Proverbs 16:18). 

Beyond the obvious which most theologians focus on (i.e. love others), His mandate also draws attention to our selfish sin nature, which needs to be redirected outward, toward others. It also speaks to the reality that the extent of our love toward others is perhaps even more limited than our love toward Him, since so often we find it hard to even love ourselves.

Putting the Verses Together

In the first verse, God gives us a goal we cannot achieve toward Him. In the second verse He gives us a command that recognizes our selfishness, which stunts our capacity to love.

For the believer, there seems to be an ability to love God more than to love man. 

For the deconstructionist who chooses to only focus on the second command, ignoring the first, there seems to be an admission of a pride-based limitation toward loving our neighbor only to the degree we can love ourselves.

By combining the two greatest commandments, “love God” and “love our neighbor” while adding the caveat that man’s love is limited, it should remind us of the contrast between our anemic capacity vs. God’s infinite capacity in the most important of attributes. God, in and through the Holy Spirit, can draw us into a greater love toward Him as the fist step in setting aside our pride-based love of ourselves as the underlying motivation toward loving others.

After all, God is love (1 John 4:8), and, when presented with His definition, we clearly fall short, but still see the target to point toward.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

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AuthorJeff Hilles | BCWorldview.org

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