“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
Sometimes the Bible appears to contradict itself. Our key passage seems to conflict with Jesus’ command to “Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12” Loving others is so vital to the life of a Christian – why on earth (or heaven) would Jesus make such a strange statement? What could He possibly mean?
This morning as I was in prayer, I asked God to help me always give Him the highest place in my life, to love Him above all else – my husband, son, friends and passions. I want Him to always be at the top of my list, if you will. Isn’t that what we have always been taught – to give God “first place” in our hearts, assigning our families, friends and passions 2nd, 3rd and so on? It does seem like the best way to order our priorities
But I heard a still, small voice very clearly say – “I don’t want first place in your heart child, I want all of your heart.” Then the Spirit brought to mind Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He even emphasized the word “all.” “But Lord,” I said, “that doesn’t leave any room for anyone else, not my husband or son or friends.” “Exactly.”, came His reply.
Then I understood. God doesn’t want to be one among many loves in our life, not even the highest love above all the rest. He want to be our only love. Not our highest priority, but our only priority. Not first place, but the only place. God loves us with complete and total devotion and love, and He desires the same in return from us. He created us for the sole purpose of a love relationship. He did not create us so that we would worship Him, though He deserves our worship – His angels worship Him night and day. He did not create us because He needed us to do His will on earth, though we are called to a life of service – He is all powerful and doesn’t need us for anything. He created us for LOVE. To love Him alone and to receive His love. The truth is, He didn’t even create us to love others.
You see, we think that if we place God at the top of our list, and all others below Him, we will have plenty of love to go around to everyone. So why then, do we tend to run short? Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30 (2 paragraphs above) are from The Shema, a daily prayer of the Hebrew people as a confirmation of their belief in God. Shema, in the original Hebrew language means “hear” and is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Jesus added to the Shema in Mark 12:31 by saying “The second [command] is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Jesus was teaching the people, and us, that love for others comes out of the overflow of a heart that is fully devoted and in love with God. Jesus’ words in our key verse are not contradicting His commandment to love one another, but He paints a picture of hearts so fully consumed with love for the Lord God, that, in comparison, we hate our mother and father, husband, wife and children. For if we truly love God with all of our hearts, that love will be so overwhelming, there will be more than enough love to pour out on our family and friends, our neighbors, strangers, and yes – even our enemies. If He is our only priority, then His passion will become our passion. His desire will become our desire. We will not be “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.” Rather when we become fully consumed with God, we are able to do the most good here on earth.
Where do we find that kind of all-consuming love? Here is where it gets really awesome. 1 John 4:7 says “love comes from God.” and verse 19 says “We love because He first loved us.” Love is also a fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23) a by-product of the heart that abides in the love of Christ. (John 15:9) Get this: The love we have for God comes from … God. It comes to us when we open ourselves up fully to Him, surrender our hearts completely to Him and let Him fill us with His love. Do you see the full circle here? What an amazing truth!
Is it any wonder that we live in a world so starved for love? Nations are overwhelmed with war, poverty, disease and a lack of care and compassion from the world. Humanitarians declare the need to love and care for our fellow human beings. Religion teaches the mandate of Christ to love others. Yet we are falling farther and farther behind. In 1965 Jackie DeShannon recorded Hal Davis and Burt Bacharach’s song, “What the World Needs Now.” The lyrics say “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; no not just for some, but for everyone.” Truly, what the world needs now is men and women who are filled with love for God that flows from the love of God and spills out on everyone around us. Oh, if only we could understand that when we reject God and His love for us we are rejecting the very thing this world needs!
I am committed to no longer give God first place in my heart and life. He is no longer my highest priority. I am committed to giving Him all of my heart and life. He is now my only priority. Will you give Him all of you?
Holy Father, loving God – I want to love your with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength. I want to be a conduit of your love – sweet love – to everyone around me. I empty myself of everything else and open my heart to You. Amen.