One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31
Many people feel and think there is a conflict and competition between Loving God and loving people. “I have 24 hours a day. If I spend one hour studying the bible and praying, then, I have one hour less to spend with people. I take home $5,000.00 cash a month. If I give $700.00 to support my church and our Proclaim Jubilee capital campaign, I have only $4,300 left for my family. There are only 7 days a week. If I commit every Sunday morning to worshipping God, I will lose couple of precious hours to be helpful to family and friends. So I will come to church and worship God only when I have spare time. I shall love God as long as it does not cost me much.” It is no wonder worshipping and loving God is put on the back-burner. In many people’s mind, almost anything is more important than loving and worshipping God.
But what if loving God does not take anything away from your love for people? Does it ever occur to you that when you offer your time, money, and talents to loving and worship God, you are actually transformed and empowered to serve your family and neighbors in ways that you will not otherwise?
Human natural love for one another is always limited and flawed. We seldom love our neighbors as ourselves. Our best motive to love others, even our dearest, is often contaminated by selfishness and possessiveness. That is why we always need to ask God to purify, to guide, and to bless our every intention and effort to love others. C. S. Lewis said, “You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God.”
C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia is the one of the best fantasy novels for both children and adults since its publication in the 1950s. The Magician’s Nephew, the first book in the Narnia series, is about the creation of Narnia, a beautiful and loving paradise, by the great lion Aslan (Aslan stands for Jesus Christ in the Narnia series). But evil entered Narnia when it was first created. Digory, a human boy, was given the task to take an apple from a garden, which was in a far away land, and bring it back to Narnia. Digory, riding on a flying horse, came to the garden, found the tree and plucked one silver apple from it. At that very moment, he was tempted by an evil Witch, who said to Digory, “Do you know what the fruit is? I will tell you. It is the apple of youth, the apple of life….eat it, boy, eat it and you will live forever. Your mother is sick, isn’t she? Take the apple with you and go home; Give it to your dying mother and she will be cured and your home will be happy again. What has the Lion ever done for you that you should be his slave? what can he do to you once you are back in your own world?” You see, Digory was tempted by the Witch to choose between loving and obeying Aslan and loving his mother. Digory, however, resisted the temptation and took the fruit to Narnia and gave it to Aslan. The apply was planted in the soil. Instantly a beautiful apple tree appeared on the spot. That tree would protect Narnia for a long, long time. Digory asked Aslan if the apple he brought from the garden would cure his mother. Aslan said, “Understand, then, it would have healed her, but not to your joy or hers. The day would have come and when both you and she would have looked back and said it would have been better to die in illness. This is what would have happened, child, with a stolen apple…… It is not what will happen now. What I give you now will bring joy.” Aslan then gave Digory a silver apple to bring to his mother. His mother ate the fruit and was healed.
What is the point of the story? It is this: we do not always know how to love our loved ones wisely. We do not always have what it takes to bring healing and comfort, joy and happiness to them, either. But God’s love is always the best gift we can receive and share with our loved ones, because God’s wisdom and power is always dependable, life-saving and life-giving. That is why C S Lewis says in a letter, “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” There are two great commandments we need to follow in order to live a good life: Love God and love neighbor. But the first and the most important commandment is this : You shall love the Lord your God all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The first and the greatest commandment shall always take precedence over everything in the whole universe, because all good gifts are from God, and there is no good and meaningful life apart from God’s love. C. S. Lewis says, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, you get neither”. Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be given to you as well.”
The most loving thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. The most loving thing we can do for our neighbors and our world is to help the church proclaim the gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ. For God is the fountain of living water that revives the weary soul. Jesus Christ is the giver of true bread that gives eternal life.
(This article appears in Mountain Mover (April, 2019), the monthly newsletter of Faith Lutheran Church, Bellaire, TX https://faithbellaire.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2019/03/April-2019.pdf )