“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
A few years ago my wife Martie and I had an opportunity to travel to Hong Kong for a ministry trip. One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with some fascinating people who are actively engaged in ministry.
One evening, I spent time with a graduate of Moody Bible Institute who happened to be in Hong Kong on a brief furlough from his church-planting ministry in the Philippines. He and his wife and two children, one of whom has Down’s syndrome, work among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Manila.
Another Moody graduate, whose husband died suddenly after just a few years of marriage, had stayed in Hong Kong as a missionary. She was on her way to Mongolia (on an airline that serves yak as the entrée!) to spend a week with some other missionaries so that she could be a resource and encouragement to them.
We also had lunch with Dave and Theresa Magee who, along with their two teenage children, had only been in Hong Kong for 3 months. Dave had just left a lucrative legal career in Chicago, attended seminary, and then become the pastor of an English-speaking church in Hong Kong.
We also met a veteran missionary couple who had served Christ in Hong Kong for over 35 years and were preparing to retire from the mission. When we asked what they would do after retirement, they beamed, telling us their plans to go into Mainland China to plant a church.
I couldn’t help but think that Jesus knows He is loved deeply by these people. I was struck by the fact that they are driven by what drives Christ, and they are committed to what He is committed to—the needs of people.
Not long after I returned from Hong Kong, a pastor friend told me of a couple in his church who, after deciding they had made enough money, sold everything to open an AIDS clinic to reach out in Christ’s name to some of the neediest people; and of a businessman who turned down a lucrative and much-sought-after promotion because the amount of travel required would take him away from his children too much.
Not all of us will be called to such radical and risky expressions of love for Christ, but He is always interested in our love for Him. A quick glance at our day-timer planner, checkbook ledger, or social calendar will probably reveal whether Christ feels truly loved by us—or not.
When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus which Old Testament commandment was the greatest, I find it interesting that He didn’t limit it to just one. He began with the “most important one”—namely, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” He continued, “The second one is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The point is clear. We prove our love for God by giving of ourselves to the needs of others. That’s why Jesus connected the two commands. You can’t do one without the other. You can’t say you love God and ignore the needs of people. And you can’t really get fired up to love people until you are deeply committed to loving God. That’s exactly why Jesus interrogated Peter three times and said, in essence, if we truly love Jesus we will care about what He cares about—the needs and nurture of people (John 21:15-17).
Like the friends I met in Hong Kong, I want to be regularly, actively loving the “neighbors” in my life as a way of putting my love for God on display. I wonder what that would look like in your world?
- Do you know someone whose life and ministry displays a deep love for Christ? If so, take a moment to write them a note of appreciation and encouragement today.
- Would others say that you are one of those people? Why or why not?
- Who are the “neighbors” in your life, and what can you do to display your love for God by loving them? Remember, some of your “neighbors” might live in your house and be in your extended family.