It is only when we truly love God that we can truly love anybody. Jesus was quoting the Torah--already 1500 years old--when He said the greatest Commandment is "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength", and its corollary "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." A quick reminder is to see the word "Joy" as an acrostic of Jesus, Others, and then You. If we get these out of order, our world doesn't work the way it was created to be. Putting either other human beings or ourselves ahead of God not only doesn't let us tap into the power of God, but can easily become a trap and idolatry. No human being--any of us or anyone else, is up to God's fighting weight--and the "other team" knows it.
A recent book * describes five ways that people act within a relationship. The actual mix is different with different individuals, but each one of them plays a role in the relationship, positively or negatively, and if the mix is too divergent between those in a relationship, it can cause major misunderstandings. In thinking about Dougie's message on Sunday and the discussion questions for the week, I realized that these also apply to our relationship with God, which reflects back on our human relationships. Let's look at them:
Words: What we say and how we say it can express love or its lack. An old proverb says that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This is so not true! Words can lift us up, or create deep hurts that will stay with us until we deliberately forgive, if ever. It is important that we share the words each week that the Spirit lays on our hearts and minds. St John wrote that "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Do we respect God's Word?
Deeds: Do we do what God wants, or what we want, or what we think someone else ought to want?
Time: How do we use our time?
Gifts: How generous are we? Do we value God's gifts to us? Do we use gifts to please ourselves, God, or others?
Touch: Do we connect with God and others, or are we totally wrapped up in ourselves? Do we truly connect with God and others, or does our own gratification come first?
Look at these components of a relationship in the terms of the Great Commandment: Where is our heart? Do we feed our soul with God's Word? Do our actions live up to what we claim to believe about God and each other? What do we put in our mind? Do we apply our intelligence to the situation at hand, and think about what we say and do before we do them? Do we put forth an appropriate amount of effort in our relationships with God and others, or are we compulsive on one hand or lazy on the other? Where do we look for strength--or own efforts, other people, or God? We can be lazy and dependent; aggressive and arrogant; or humble and cooperative--do we ask God to teach us how to make choices in our lives?
*The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman