Are you fully engaged in wholehearted loving?
Every Christian leader who wants fully engaged board members, executives, staff and supporters needs to ask three probing questions.
- Do I understand the Greatest Commandment and take it seriously?
- Do I understand that I can love God wholeheartedly only if I have received, embraced, and cherished His deep love for me?
- Do I understand that I can love my neighbors as myself only if I love myself?
If we’re missing that last understanding—if it isn’t true of our board members, executives, staff and supporters—then the Greatest Commandment is only theory. Granted, we may be working hard. Our work may impress others. But we’re not fully engaged.
To become fully engaged, I highly recommend reading (or listening to) Jerry and Denise Basel’s landmark book, The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself.
Earlier this summer I spent three days with Jerry and Denise at their beautiful home north of Atlanta. They’re the real deal with a powerful message. Together, Jerry and Denise resolved a deep three-year nagging concern in my own life: What does it mean for me to obey Jesus and love others “as yourself”?
Here is what I learned…
Supreme Priority of the Greatest Commandment
Whenever Jesus is asked which commandment is most important, He replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” He continues, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
In his first sentence about loving God, Jesus echoes the words of Deuteronomy 6:5. In his second sentence about loving others as ourselves, Jesus quotes Leviticus 19:18. The supreme priority of these two statements stands out more clearly in Matthew 22:40 when Jesus declares, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
There is nothing more important in all the Scriptures, in terms of what God asks of us, than to love Him wholeheartedly and to love others as we love ourselves.
We Resist God’s Deep Love for Us
It is not possible to obey the Greatest Commandment, however, if we don’t embrace God’s deep love for you and me. First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”
Sadly, many think God does not look on them with love, favor and delight. In their heart of hearts, they actually feel God is angry at them or, at best, distant and uncaring. This is the great disconnect that the Father wants to deal with in each one of us.
In her book Breaking Free, Beth Moore tells the story of a group of women she was teaching about God’s love. She asked them to each look into the eyes of the person next to them and say, “God loves me so much.” Guess what happened all over the room? Beth Moore writes, “The women turned to one another and said, ‘God loves you so much.’”
What a perfect example of how we accept God’s love for others, but struggle to believe in His love for us. Yet the truth is, God loves you and me just as much as He loves others. Why do we believe otherwise?
Loving Ourselves Is Anything But Selfish
When we embrace God’s deep love for us, we become better able to trust His heart and to love others in return. Loving what God loves is the key—and yes, He absolutely loves you and me.
In Jeremiah 31:3, the Lord says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Both Jesus and the apostles affirm this truth repeatedly.
One executive told everyone in his ministry that he knew God loved him, but that past week for the very first time he had experienced a profound revelation of “Jesus loves me, this I know” deep within his heart. To say he was transformed by this experience doesn’t do it justice.
In other words, if learning to embrace God’s deep love for me changes how I treat myself and ultimately enables me to love you better, then the results are decidedly unselfish.
As a result of experiencing God’s love for me in a much deeper way, it’s transformed how I see/treat/respect myself and others. Like the ministry executive mentioned above, I’ve become fully engaged in obeying the Greatest Commandment.
In coming days, may that be your experience—an experience well worth sharing with others.
David Sanford coaches leaders passionate about demonstrating the relevance of Jesus Christ in every major sphere of life. His book and Bible projects have been published by Doubleday, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, and Zondervan. His speaking engagements have ranged everywhere from UC Berkeley to The Billy Graham Center at the Cove. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.