To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).
How do we put God first in all our affections, thoughts, and energy? Without the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible! God is the one who loves us first, enables us to respond wholeheartedly, and fills us with himself.
This comforts me as I think about loving my neighbor. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the abyss of needs. The desire to love sometimes lies buried under groans and sighs, yet when I experience “the joy of the Lord,” everything changes. Filled and satisfied in him, serving others becomes a happy “I get to” instead of “I have to.”
Have you noticed, though, how we can be deceived by performance? Mother Teresa points out that the focus should not be on how much good you do (performance), but rather how much love goes into what you do. She says, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” I like this!
Sometimes we substitute “burnt offerings” for true neighborly love. It might be easier to offer God volunteer work than to exercise patience with my children. Easier to write God a check than to put down the phone and give my spouse the attention they need.
Consider Mother Teresa’s challenge: “It is possible that our children, our husband, our wife, do not hunger for bread, do not need clothes, do not lack a house. But are we equally sure that none of them feels alone, abandoned, neglected, needing some affection?”
Prayer of response: Lord, help us to love others eagerly and with great joy, the way we’d like to be loved. Amen.
Questions to ponder:
- In what ways might a performance orientation hinder loving your neighbor?
- A burnt offering might be a deed meant to impress, but it could also be a deed offered in place of obedient love. Where might sacrificing in this counterfeit way be a temptation for you?
- How might you love those closest to you better?
Published with Lifesprings International June 14, 2022.