By Dave Palcsak,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Jesus replied when asked what was most important. From Mark 12:31-32…. “Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Some form of the Corinthian’s text has been quoted in over half the marriage ceremonies I’ve ever attended. It should be. If every married couple lived that to the best of their ability we would have no divorces. Sadly, in our world of pre-nups and selfish inability to seriously commit to anything other than our own gratification, those words have become nothing more than meaningless lip service. How badly this message is missed compounds because Jesus wasn’t talking solely about man and wife. “For if you love those who love you what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46). Tax collectors were notorious as thieves at the time. I think this verse appears in this particular gospel because Matthew left his profession as a tax collector to follow Christ. Clearly, this demonstrates that the lowliest can be exalted. But you have to put aside a great deal of personal pride.

It bothered me that Jesus put “love God” ahead of “love your fellow man”. Why would the Creator of everything need to put loving him ahead of everything else? Is He so petty that He craves our adoration that much? Would we hurt His feelings if we failed to grovel sufficiently? How can anyone be expected to worship a God like that? That attitude made sense to me as an agnostic. It shouldn’t have. Disbelief, or doubting, doesn’t qualify one to dismiss the possibility that God exists on the basis of uneducated personal opinion. Folks need to be very careful of this. Personal preference has no impact on what is true. Believing, or even being open to belief, allows the bigger picture to come in focus (John 6:29, 20:31).

God created man in His image. He is the Father of all. If we don’t love and respect Him, we can in no way have an inkling how to love others, not to mention ourselves. He has taught us with so much more than words. He sent His Divine Son to humble Himself. The fact that He took human form is an unimaginable sacrifice in itself. But He did so much more. Christ suffered and died the most painful grisly death possible. He did this for all of us. All human sacrifice in the history of the world can’t equal the sacrifice made by the Father and the Son. We are all sons and daughters of God. We can strive to hear and obey, or we can turn away. True love can’t be coerced. That is why He gave us free will. We have to choose subjugation. It’s against our prideful nature to do this. We want to be in control. We want it to be all about ourselves. We crave adulation and respect. We want to win; we want to beat the competition. We want to love and be loved, but on our terms. Are we patient enough, kind enough? Do we envy and boast? How often do we act improperly because we are full of ourselves? Have you ever kept a scorecard or delighted when an adversary fell? Does your love ever wane because your faith in it slips? Do you think you have a better way than God? If you answered no, take heart. All we can do is try. If you answered yes, understand how prideful you are and re-think things.

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