Love God, love people. We’ve all heard this one before, I’m sure. It makes for the perfect Twitter bio, and maybe it’s way overused. But either way, this sentiment is really spelt out for us in the book of Matthew, and comes to us as a command from Jesus Himself.
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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:37-40
This passage is all about intentionality and being relational, because of the vast implications that flow from these two very straightforward commands. Just how many implications? Jesus says the whole of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands! We are to connect with God first and foremost. He is the true Source, the Vine, the deep Well that we draw from that satisfies us and fills us like no other thing. When we connect to and with Him first, everything else flows out of that. We then can connect with people! Connecting with and loving people is so vastly important that Jesus says this command is like the first: the one where He says to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Let’s really let that sink in for a moment. Let’s ask hard questions of ourselves: have we really been loving people with the kind of magnitude that Jesus calls us to?
What does this kind of love look like? Well first, it’s the kind of love that is characterized in Philippians when Paul writes to put others and their interests before ourselves; so much so that we should consider others as better than us. But this kind of love that Jesus is calling us to is one in which intentionality must take the forefront. If we are to show people the only Hope, if we are to disciple them, if we are to show them how Jesus gives life to the full and joy like nothing else, we must be intentional and seek to be relational through common ground with them.
Madeleine L’Engle once said, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."
When we meet people where they are, hear their stories, where they come from, why they see things a particular way, etc. We are put on a common ground with them; we are relating to them. We better understand where they are coming from. This puts us in the most perfect space to be a vessel for Christ to them through our words and actions. They know we are listening, and so they will be more prone to listen to us. It’s so imperative that we don't damage opportunities to be relational. Because it is through being relational that we have conversations with people. And it is through beautiful, honest, and sometimes raw conversations that we can share the Hope that is for all. It is through these types of conversations where truth can be shared as well, even if it is hard truth that must be shared to a brother or sister.
So, what can we do? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Pray. At the beginning of everyday, pray to ask God to make your heart sensitive to His promptings and direction through-out the day so as to be and carry His light to everyone you come into contact with. You never know who God might bring in your path, or whose path He may cause you to cross.
2) Listen. Hear people’s stories, and actually learn more about who they are and where they are coming from! When this happens, they actually become stories that we can learn to love and appreciate just as they are. What better place to disciple and be the light of Christ from to whoever they are and wherever they may be? Once we know where they are at, the Holy Spirit will show us where they need to go, and just may use us in that process if we let Him.
3) Act. At the end of the day, if we desire to be disciple makers and people who are radiating the light of Christ to every eye that sees us, we must be intentionally seeking opportunities where we can make that light even more visible. Is it perhaps that conversation with that one person that we know we need to have? Is it that person who everyone else just glances over that could use love and grace? We must be engaged and present at all times with people, just as Jesus was! Let us not forget that when we identify with Jesus, people watch us even harder.
Let us love and pursue God with all that we have. When we do, we have no choice but to desire to do the same with the people—all of us—that He came to die for.