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Living and Loving: The Essential Path to Living What’s Critical to God

By October 25, 2023November 8th, 2023No Comments

In a world that often seems chaotic and filled with distractions, it’s vital to anchor ourselves in what truly matters to God. Central to God’s heart are two essential commandments: Love God and Love Others. These commandments serve as the foundation of our faith and guide us in navigating life’s complexities.

It’s important that we not begin to think we have matured past these foundational points. It’s easy to recite them along with other basic theological truths we have learned, but if these truly are the “greatest commandments” (Matthew 22:38) then we would do well to dwell on them, and pursue their application with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27).

Love God: The Cornerstone Commandment

And so we begin where our Lord began: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NKJV). This commandment, articulated by Jesus Himself, stands as the cornerstone of our relationship with God. 

Over 600 commandments in the Old Testament—and they all distill down into this one. 

But why is loving God so crucial? Why have this particular greatest commandment come first? It’s because when we wholeheartedly love God, we place Him at the center of our lives. We seek His wisdom, listen for His guidance, and prioritize our relationship with Him above all else.

Love Others: The Neighborly Connection

As if loving God wasn’t the tallest order conceivable for a fallen creature, Jesus follows it up with an equally impossible (apart from His power working in us) command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NKJV). 

But why is loving others so vital? Because it is one of the ways we bear evidence of our love for God. 1 John 4:20 (NRSV) reminds us, “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

Praise God for this commandment and the reminder of 1 John 4:20. Without both, we might have heard Jesus say “love God” and committed ourselves to a life of lonely hermitage—grumpily studying God’s Word without ever putting it into practice. Instead we are called to joyfully display our love for God in and through a love for our neighbor that otherwise makes no sense on this side of heaven.

The Church: A Vital Piece of the Puzzle

Thus far, these commandments seem fairly straightforward for any one individual to follow, but how are we to make them a reality in the local church?

The analogies are endless here—Paul used the body in 1 Corinthians 12. Given our culture’s love of sports, perhaps a football analogy is more accurate. The church is like your team, working together to achieve a common goal. Each member plays a unique role, just as different players have distinct positions and skills. Perhaps there are some superstars, and some role players, but regardless of talent, all 11 men need to do their job on the field. 

The church provides a supportive environment where you can grow in your faith, learn from one another, and collectively carry out acts of love and service to the community.

Here’s why the church is essential:

  • Spiritual Growth: The church offers opportunities for spiritual growth through teaching, worship, and fellowship. It strengthens your love for God, deepening your understanding of His Word.
  • Community and Support: In the church, you find a community of like-minded individuals who share your faith journey. They provide support, encouragement, and accountability, helping you to love others more effectively.
  • Service and Outreach: The church often engages in outreach and service projects, giving you practical ways to love and serve your neighbors and community. 
  • Accountability: Being part of a church family holds you accountable to living out God’s commandments. You have others who can encourage and correct you in love.
Living Out What’s Critical to God

So, how do we practically live out these critical commandments of loving God and loving others within the context of the church? Here are some thoughts for consideration:

  • Active Participation: Engage actively in church activities, from attending services to joining small groups and volunteering in outreach programs.
  • Building Relationships: Invest in building genuine relationships within the church community. Break bread together. These connections will strengthen your love for God and help you love others effectively.
  • Supporting Church Initiatives: Get involved in church initiatives aimed at serving the community, whether it’s feeding the hungry, offering shelter to the homeless, or providing emotional support to those in need.
  • Prayer and Worship: Participate wholeheartedly in corporate worship and prayer. It’s a powerful way to deepen your love for God and connect with others in the church.

These simple yet profound commandments of loving God and loving others stand as guideposts on our faith journey. They are not mere religious obligations; they are the keys to a purposeful and fulfilling life.

May we joyfully love God and love others in our lives, in our churches, and to the ends of the earth.

Adapted with permission from an article written on by Brian Cederquist, Lead Pastor at Good News Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, MI.

Baptist Church Planters exists to help church leaders build healthy disciple-making churches. If you or your church need support or resources to love God and love others, please reach out to us today. We’d love to help.