What’s the most important thing in life? Is it to be good? Is it to follow the rules? Maybe you think it is to win at any cost or to gain as much stuff as possible in life.
Jesus was asked this very question. He was asked what the most important commandment was. His answer, the most important commandment is:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
This is the VERTICAL relationship. Now, let’s see what else Jesus has to say:
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Jesus tells us that there is a second commandment that is also imperative to understand, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the HORIZONTAL relationship.
The key is this: if we join that VERTICAL relationship of loving God, indeed, loving Jesus, and it is the bigger of the two, if we join this relationship with the HORIZONTAL relationships of loving all people as we love ourselves, what do we get–the CROSS! It is in the CROSS that we find a fulfilled life!
There are two Greek words translated as “love” in the New Testament. One is “phileo” [fil-eh-o]. This word has a deeper meaning of a “friendship” type of love. However, this is not the word that Jesus uses here. He uses the word “agapao” [ag-ap-ah-o] which is strong in the meaning of “totally unselfish love”, “finding one’s joy in someone” or, to sum it up, “to love with strong affection, favor, goodwill and benevolence”. Not only does God want our love for Him to be as His love for us, unselfish and with affection, he wants us to love others the same way.
When you love God completely and care for others as you care for yourself, you have fulfilled the intent of the Ten Commandments and other laws of the Old Testament!
The truth is, we can’t maintain a good VERTICAL relationship with Jesus without also caring for our neighbor.
“But Pastor Jan,” you say, “this isn’t easy! How do I find fulfillment in life simply through loving God and loving everyone around me?”
I remember a time in my life when I did not have a relationship with Jesus, I was on my own in a big way. Oh yeah, there were some good times. They came and went. But down at the center of my heart I was unfulfilled, there was something missing and nothing I could do would fill that hole. I was bitter over what people had done to me, I was angry at how my life was turning out, I thought about ME first and foremost. Yep! The hole just got bigger, the circle that I was running in just got longer and there seemed to be no end to the pain.
Here is the point. When I started daily, living with Jesus in my heart and recognized the sacrifice that was made for me on the Cross, when I started to seek and love Jesus in my life–things started to change. When I started to apply His wisdom and to struggle through forgiveness (leaving NO ONE out), when I started to focus on the people around me and caring for them and when I focused less on me and my needs, that is when I started to get it. His love washed over me like a wave in the ocean, it cleansed me in my daily being.
Before that, I was thinking mainly of myself and wanted to be first–but ended up last. I started loving Jesus and caring for those around me as I would care for myself, and you would think that I would then be last, but no, I’m not last. How can I be last when I have found true fulfillment in life?
“But Pastor Jan, it’s not easy!”
Yes my friend, you are right! The path is not an easy one. The other path isn’t easy either, is it?
VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL love – the CROSS! You can’t have the cross, nor the fulfillment in life – without BOTH. Love Jesus, love each other!
~ By Jan Puterbaugh, Associate pastor