Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem during what we now call the Passion Week. The teachers of the law had been questioning Jesus while in the temple, hoping to trip him up, but being unable to do so. Finally, one teacher — having seen that Jesus always gave a good answer — asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”[1]

 

Jesus began His answer by quoting the Shema. Loving God totally and with complete abandon is the most important, He told them. Then He added another Old Testament scripture, this one from Leviticus 19:18, which reads: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Jesus concluded with, “There is no commandment greater than these.”

 

It was as if Jesus were saying that if you love God, you will automatically love those God has placed in your life. Loving means more than liking someone or being nice or even being jolly for a season. Loving your “neighbor” means to give those entrusted to your life the same courtesy you would give to both God and to yourself. You cannot say you love God and treat others poorly.

 

A Life Lesson
I learned something else a long time ago: not everyone will like me and I won’t like everyone. There are some out there I’m sure I rub the wrong way and vice versa. This is not about loving or treating kindly. But I have lived long enough and been in ministry long enough to know something else: people do not act the way they do without reason. I have found that if I take the time to look at those around me with the same heart and eyes as Jesus looks at them, I receive understanding. This is not said to excuse bad behavior, but rather to
become more appreciative of the circumstance of others.

 

I have also found that when I pray — truly pray — for those I’m not so crazy about; loving them begins to take shape. I find myself seeking ways to do nice things for them. To “embrace” them, as the song says. To be Jesus with skin on.

 

True love and brotherhood should not be a seasonal issue. It is a gift that keeps giving all year long. In return, we will find that we now love God more deeply than we could have ever thought possible.


Eva Marie Everson is an award-winning author (The Potluck Club; Sex, Lies, and High School) & a national and international speaker. For more information, go to: www.EvaMarieEverson.com.



[1] Mark 12:28