The Greatest of These is Love-
Guest post by Rev. Mary Powell
Jesus explained love this way: One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'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.'
Paul reiterates the importance of love in I Corinthians 13:13,, “And now, faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
Personally, my love for the Lord is something with which I struggle as I attempt to grow more intimately in love with God just as Jesus described here. I know that to nurture and grow my love for God I need to be aware of God’s presence all day long. I start the day with the Upper Room scripture and story and then journal my personal response in the form of a short prayer about my heart’s desires. Worship music and watching services online also draw me into being more aware of God’s presence. God is here all the time, we just don’t pay as much attention as we can. See Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence for more on this.
But lately with the chaos of the COVID-19 virus is thrusting fear and caution upon me. I find myself mentally hanging onto God each time negative thoughts pop into my mind. I turn to praising God for all I have for which to be thankful in response and then praying for each particular person who comes to mind. I do end the day with prayers for particular persons : family, church members, residents and staff at the Wesleyan, leaders here in Texas and in our government… That is the only way I can let go and sleep in peace.
Love of neighbor seems to be easier to show. Our church family has been reaching out to each other, checking on each other during this time of physical isolation. It is especially hard to be unable to give each other the gift of singing together as we worship the Lord. Now we realize how much face-to-face interaction and physical touching with hugs and handshakes mean for demonstrating our loving connection to others. We yearn to help people with food, diapers, toys, anything that will make people’s lives better and the response to our offer to collect and disperse items has been wonderful, St. Philip’s family!
Thank you so much, Church, for your faithfulness.
However, there is more to being loving neighbors than serving those in the geographical area around our church or your neighborhood.
Today we can reach anyone anywhere through social media, so we are not as restricted as in the past. We can even have church together online! Loving our distant neighbors by having the gospel preached to all nations and races and in all languages is coming closer to fulfillment. We support that with our support of missions like sending Steve and Suzanne Beuchle to minister in Vietnam and our team to Guatemala to build a home, or the money needed, at least.
We will see the fruit of such outreach one day when we all gather at the Lord’s throne in eternity.
Just imagine what heaven will be like someday. The Book of Revelation by John of Patmos gives us a beautiful picture of us all together: Revelation 7:9 describes what that will be like: “After this I looked and there before me stood a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
We pray in the Lord’s prayer ...“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray for earth to be like heaven then this passage that asks for there to be on earth a great celebration and reunion of people of all nations and races and languages here and there together. Watching the news these days, we are very aware that there is a struggle going on for our citizens to be able to love others, especially those we do not personally know or who don’t look like us or agree with us. Yet we show our love for those we do not know by how we sympathize, weep for, and empathize with so many who are in pain, grieving, or are fearful for their lives.
Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. See if there is anything wicked in me, and lead me in the way that leads to righteousness.”
When was a time in your life when you felt like you were experiencing a little celebration of what heaven will be like. In your mind, did it include such a variety of people?
Can you as a follower of Christ do your part to live up to the passage in the Lord’s Prayer for earth to be like heaven?
As we live out the two commandments Jesus put before the Pharisee, may we go forward intentionally examining our hearts, opening our minds and searching for new ways to live lovingly amidst what looks like chaos, which can be an opportunity to grow in love. Join me in the discussion group “Vital Conversations” in August that will help us do just that.
-Rev. Mary Powell