The Order of Love
By Erin Lamb
‘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: 39-40.
The context of these verses are that the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus by asking what is the greatest commandment. He had just put their questions to rest about the resurrection. Jesus always has the perfect answer, see verses from Matthew 22 above. Fast forward to us, modern day Christians. We are no longer under the law, but under grace. We don’t serve God to win His approval or love others to win His approval. Everything needed was already given in Christ. Through relationship with Him we are made righteous, not by works or living under the law, but by faith and relationship with Jesus. That’s good news, that we are invited into a deep love relationship with God Himself.
There is however a principle to this verse (something we can learn from it). God is a God of order. He is perfect in His ways. The engineer in me loves this about Him. He does things in order. He is not messy, sloppy, nor does He half do anything. The order of love was designed by Him. It goes as follows.
The Order of Love:
1. Receive love from God. If we do not first receive His love for us, we have nothing to give Him back. We have nothing to give ourselves or others. The first step is always receiving His love by faith and trusting in His unfailing love for us. If we refuse to believe that God loves us, there is a breakdown in the flow of love. We will not be able to love Him, ourselves, or anyone else the way He intended. If we have not received His mercy, grace, acceptance, and love, it will not flow out of us.
2. Love God. If we put anything ahead of God it will destroy us. Money, relationships, ministry, image, spouse, significant other, work…anything we place ahead of devotion to Him becomes an idol. We are called to love Him back with the love He gives us. As the vertical (God) relationship is worked out, the horizontal (others) relationship get better and better.
3. Love Yourself. I have heard way too many people say that humility is hating yourself, picking yourself apart, and debasing yourself. That is not scriptural and is a false form of pride. Jesus didn’t do it, therefore it is not humility. He was perfect in humility, yet He loved Himself and was confident in who God made Him to be. If we do not love and accept ourselves we cannot love others. You cannot give away what you do not have. The way you judge yourself, is how you will judge others.
4. Love Others. Many times we try to love people first without going in the order of love. It fails. It fails because God’s ways are perfect. We cannot love people the way He wants them loved in our strength, in our own power, and with our human love. It will fail. His love however, never fails. It is perfect. If we love in the order He planned for it go, then there will be fruit. It will be love that is patient, kind, long suffering, gentle, forgiving, truthful, humble, not envious or jealous, giving, serving, filled with compassion, and self controlled.
Lastly, one of the things that popped into my head this week was that we say, “I love you,” all the time to people. But what does that mean? Sometimes I want to ask people, “What does that mean to you?” We attribute love to kindness, spending time, and superficial things. However, love is more than that. Here are my definitions of love. Love means I will correct you in love if you are wrong. Love means I will suffer with you. Love means I will pray for you. Love means I will sacrifice for you. Love means I will put your best interests, and God’s best interests for you at the forefront of my mind. Love means I will feed you if you’re hungry, clothe you if you are naked, encourage you, be there to help you, be a good steward of your heart, time, and anything connected to you. Love means I will treat all things connected to you with love and respect. Love means I will give you the benefit of the doubt until you prove otherwise. Love means I will forgive you and seek to give you the very best of me. Love means I will be honest, transparent, hopeful, merciful, and seek God for the source of love for you. Love means I will be kind to you to the best of my ability and seek God for more of His love for you.
Sometimes people love us with all that they have, but if God is not the source of that love, then it will fall short. If you encounter someone who doesn’t love you well, pray that the order of love come into alignment into their lives. Also check your heart and see if your expectations are reasonable, people were never intended to replace God. Only God can give a love that does not fail. However, by praying for the person, there is hope for change. Only God can change a person from the inside out, we cannot. We can love them, but only He can change the person so they can receive love and grow in love.
My prayer this year is that the order of love in lives comes into alignment. We are in this together, all learning from an awesome God!
“Abba, thank You for Your mercy, love, forgiveness, grace, and all that You have done for us. Fill us to overflow with Your love. Help us to receive Your love, Your mercy, Your grace, Your acceptance. Help us to love and accept ourselves and then love others. Fill the gaps. Heal anything that hinders us from receiving Your love. Teach us your ways. Thank You! Thank You for Jesus. May He increase in us and may we be beacons of light for all the world to see. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.”