Jesus was once asked which of the commandments was the greatest. It was a trick question of course; but as always, Jesus sidestepped the test and got right to the heart of the matter.
“‘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.’” (Matt 22.37-39)
It all boils down to two things – love God and love each other.
It sounds so simple. After all, it’s easy to sing songs at church and smile at each other. Or meet a friend to laugh over a cup of coffee. But that doesn’t begin to touch the kind of love Jesus meant.
The Greek language has several words to explain different kinds of love. Phileo is brotherly love, an emotional bond between friends. Eros is romantic love, and Storge is more of a familial love. Each of those come naturally to most people. But the fourth, Agape love, is more challenging.
Agape love is not based on a feeling. It’s a sacrificial love, a call to action. This is the love that God has for us – the love that made Jesus leave Heaven to live as a human and sacrifice Himself to save us. THAT’S the kind of love that He commands from us.
So how do we show this Agape love to others? Here’s a few things to remember:
Agape love can be hard and messy
Think back to the last time that you asked someone, “How are you?” Did you wait around for an honest answer, or just keep walking past at the “I’m fine” response that we’ve all come to expect?
The real answer might be more than you’re ready for, but give people a chance to be honest. Life isn’t easy, and it can be downright ugly. We all struggle. We all need people that we trust enough to open up to. Be that person for others, even if it means taking extra time out of your day to take on someone else’s burdens.
Be sincere when you ask. Give them your full attention. And don’t just tell them you’ll pray for them. Take a moment and pray for them right then and there. Follow up with them. That lets them know you care enough to pay attention and remember.
It doesn’t always take a lot
When someone is struggling, they don’t expect you to fix their problems. It’s usually enough just to know that someone cares.
You can show this love in a tangible way. Offer to give them a ride to church or pick up their kids from school. Take them a hot dinner or cup of coffee. Go on a grocery run for them. These are all little things that can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
It isn’t about you
Friendships and relationships make us feel good. It’s easy to show love for people that we care about. But what about the unlovable? What about the people you don’t agree with, or even like? What about people who lied about you, took advantage of you or hurt someone you love? Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them.
What about the homeless, orphans or people in jail? These people need to know God’s love as badly as you and I. And yet, most of their lives are spent in the shadows because most people act like they don’t exist.
But Jesus didn’t just notice the “outcasts,” He sought them out. He spent time with them, eating and drinking and laughing with them. Loving them. Loving like Jesus is hard work, and definitely not glamorous. But He will bless it, because it makes us more like Him.
Share some Agape love today
Take a few minutes today to share God’s love with someone else. Ask someone how they’re doing, and really listen for the answer. Maybe help your elderly neighbor take out their trash or pick up some leaves. Show someone who feels taken for granted that you really appreciate them. Text a friend to tell them you’re thinking about them. The possibilities are endless. But be sincere. People can always tell the difference.
What can you do today to love someone else?