We have all heard at one time or another to put God first. We have heard the two greatest commands as stated by Jesus. Typically, there is a lot of emphasis put on the first one, while the second may or may not get much attention.
Today, I want to take a closer look at the second command—love your neighbor. The word love in this command is the same word used to love God. Why is this important? In the Greek, there are three different words used for love, each with their own definition.
The word used for love is agapao, which involves a deep level of affection or intimacy according to the Lexham Theological Workbook. We often simplify this by saying it is unconditional love. But let’s dig a little deeper into the meaning to understand why we simplify it to mean unconditional.
A deep level of affection is something we might have for family members, especially our children. We love them, even if we don’t always like their behavior or their choices. We help our children when they need it. We are willing to do with less in order to provide them more.
An intimacy may involve the love we have for our spouse. It certainly includes getting to know more about the other person. We have a desire to know all there is to know about them, not as a nosy neighbor, but in order to better care for them.
Another way we might put this is sacrificial love. We give up our desires to meet their needs. We give of ourselves to serve someone not related to us. Sometimes we look at this as service within our community. That is certainly part of it. Yet, we can’t forget the person or family that does live right next door.
If we were to all care for our neighbor in the way we are commanded by Jesus, we would not have the issues in our communities we face today. Sure, there are people who have no desire to help someone else. But that isn’t a reason for us to not help them. Notice, Jesus didsn’t say to love your neighbor only if they love you. He didn’t say serve your neighbor only if they serve you.
Changing the world, making it a better place to live has to start with someone. We are commanded by Jesus to be that starting point. Kindness and caring are as contagious as hate and despair. Let’s be the people who care for one another.
I pray we all decide to love our neighbor. I pray we serve our communities. I pray each of us will take a step toward changing our community for the better. Love God. Love neighbor. Be the positive change. Be the example. Show your love through care and service.
Mark 12:29-31 “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.”