“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.” Matthew 22:37-39
Over the past several decades, anthropologists have done an exhaustive survey of the various cultures of the world. One of their most fundamental findings was morality is universal. Scholars have never found a culture, past or present, that doesn’t have some system of morality. The standards of morality may differ from one culture to another or even within a culture, but every culture knows there is a difference between what is right and what isn’t and what should be and what shouldn’t be.
Deep down, each of us has a sense of what we ought to do…at least on some level. Where does this “ought to” come from? Because we are all created in the image of God, there exists within all of us a moral center…an intrinsic knowledge of the truth. Romans 1:18-21 explains how sin causes people to suppress this truth about God, even though He has clearly revealed Himself through all that He has made. When the truth of God is suppressed, futile minds and darkened hearts run the show.
Jesus said that the moral virtues we ought to live by are summed up in one word: Love. This love should flow in two directions. It should flow vertically, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind;” and it should flow horizontally, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we follow those two commandments we will find loyalty, honesty, love, generosity, and sacrifice.
It is important, however, that these two expressions of love be kept in order. Our love for God must be foremost…even above our love for others. Why? Because it is God who shows us how to best love other people. If we are not grounded in our relationship with Christ, we cannot love others the way He wants us to. We must be careful to never “love” others at the expense of what is honoring to God and in line with His Word. The opposite is also true. Honoring God will never lead us to be unloving to others.
If we seek to love God first He will show us how to love others in a way that honors Him and shows His goodness, grace, and mercy.
Dear Father, I want to love others well, but I know that starts with loving you and prioritizing my relationship with you. Give me a heart to love you more every day, and, in turn, a heart to love others so that they might be pointed to you. In Jesus' name, amen.