Love God, love others. I've been touting this phrase a lot lately as if I know what I'm talking about. Of course we're all pretty familiar with Matthew 22:37-39 by now: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself," (ESV).
Love God, love others. When said so simply it seems so simple, but we all know it's not simple at all. First of all, how can I, a finite human, love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind? Secondly, if I lack the ability to do the first, how can I love my neighbor as I love myself? It seems it is a commandment I am set up to fail at fulfilling before I even try.
My life journey has brought me into deep relationship with God, so, though I still have a long way to go, I am learning how to love God the way the first commandment tells me to. It is proving to be a lifelong process. But I've yet to learn how to do the second. My lack of learning is directly related to my lack of understanding.
I've asked the Lord before to help me stop hating someone, and He did. But I have never considered asking God to help me stop loving someone until the other day. No, I've not been hurt by anyone. I was confused about what I was being pulled to do. Because I lacked understanding, I feared my inability to fulfill the love others commandment adequately.
I was recently burdened for a new friend. I've felt burdened for others before, but not like this. An aching pain hit me in the pit of my stomach, and I was shocked by it. I asked God why I was being pulled to love so deeply. Because I lacked understanding about how to love others, I started repenting for what seemed to be an overinvestment of love. I found myself loving others so much that it hurt, so I began to ask God to help me stop loving. But, then, I interrupted myself and asked, "How can I ask you to help me stop loving others? You commanded that I love others." Then I felt prompted to make a different request: "Help me to love the right way."
James 1:4-5 says, "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him," (ESV).
Though the context of these verses is talking about being steadfast in faith during trials, I think it's safe to say "lacking in nothing" actually means nothing regardless of the context of the verse. Therefore, it seems safe to say I can ask God for wisdom about anything—even how to love wisely.
I Corinthians 13:4-8 says, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends," (ESV).
We humans are opposite of these love qualities from I Corinthians 13. We are impatient and unkind. We are envious and boastful.We are arrogant and rude. We want our own way, and we are irritable and resentful. We rejoice over another's demise and try to hide from the truth by covering up our own wrongdoing. We reject others' burdens. We are full of mistrust, we are hopeless, and we give up on others during difficulty. We stop loving when it's inconvenient to love.
It seems naive to think we can love as I Corinthians 13 describes love, but we can. However, before we can love others correctly, we have to first learn how to love God. We do this through relationship with Him. We learn how to love God as He reveals His love for us. And as He teaches us to love Him, He teaches us how to love others with love like that of I Corinthians 13.
This is loving the right way. It is the deepest kind of love. And it is the kind of love that is willing to bear up another (cover them from threat). This wise love will drive us to embrace another's pain and intercede on their behalf. And it is the only kind of love that has the ability to love our enemies. I don't think we can ever overinvest in loving others.
Though my capacity to love is not quite as vast as God's, I think I've been given a glimpse of what it feels like to love others the way God loves them.
Love God, love others. How? You should not be asking me. I've realized I don't know what I'm talking about. But I am learning. If you'll ask God, He'll show you how to love Him and love others the right way. God is love, and He knows exactly how to love.