A religious leader once asked Jesus: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘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 22:35-40).
Everything hinges on loving God, and loving people. It’s a huge and scary commitment to take on, and you don’t have to love my God, or even believe in my God for me to love you. You just have to be a person. I think some Christians are better at loving people than others are, but that doesn't let anyone off the hook. Frankly, it scares me a little bit as my faith gets stronger and I travel further along this spiritual pathway. I know who I am, and my flaws, imperfections, and weaknesses, and I know how quick I am to judge sometimes, and I realize letting all that love in and out is a lot of work. I have to be diligent in guarding my heart, and keeping myself in check.
I don’t always even know how to love. It is truly a lot of work. There have been people in my life who I have come pretty close to hating, actually. There are all kinds of jokes out there about loving your haters because they helped you get where you are. I do believe I am a stronger person because of the difficult people in my life, but I usually appreciate them in a sarcastic, rather than loving, way. Yet, I am commanded to love, so I have to commit myself to forgiving them and finding peace so I can love. That is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to do. It is a struggle I may face my whole life, but that doesn't mean I stop trying, and it doesn't mean I just decide to ignore my feelings and go on with my life. I am told to love people, so I have to figure it out. There is no room for bitterness and revenge in love.
We get a lot of messages from a lot of different people at The Torch. I pray for many, many people - often they are people I don’t know personally, or I am just acquainted with them. I find as I pray for people, love for them grows and I become concerned for them. Some people have very heartbreaking stories, and I contemplate those and work hard to understand their lives and their humanity. Sometimes I stop working in the food truck, and I look out over the crowd of people, and I pray for a heart of love and compassion. It’s easy to love the people we know well, much more difficult when we don’t know them at all.
When we love someone, really love him or her, we put ourselves out there and take risks to support that individual, because we want the best possible outcome . Working to love others has caused me to realize the importance of setting aside my comfort zones, and making sacrifices in my own life so I can do more for them. It has also softened my heart towards God, and allowed me to experience faith as He moves mountains and helps me to show love in a world that pretty much rejects it in favor of self. Let’s face it, you can’t be selfish and really love others. If you love your family and 100% of your concern is always with taking care of them, that is fine, but don’t tell me you love others when nothing you do shows it. We are called to love more than just our families. We are called to love people as much as we love ourselves. That's huge, and frightening.
Loving others is scary, because taking risks is scary. And to love others we often have to take risks. I have huge burdens on my heart for some next steps for The Torch. There is no way we can accomplish them ourselves, but we so passionately want to show an undeniable love and hope to this world we are asking God to move a lot of mountains. I often find myself living with just a little bit of fear deep in the pit of my stomach when it comes to The Torch, because taking steps of faith and striving to love people is often unnerving. I am certainly not the person I would have chosen to lead the way as we blaze this trail, but I am going to do my best to show the world what happens when you love God and love people.
Hope is what happens. I promise you there is no situation, no person, who is completely hopeless. She might be frustrating. He might be infuriating. She might be hurtful. He might be spiteful. She might be depressing. But nobody is completely hopeless. People are here for us, for me, to love. I can’t love people and believe in hope for them if I am too busy judging them or making excuses to not get involved with their lives. I know I will never love as perfectly as God loves. But I do know I am trying to develop faith in God that teaches me and leads me to the point where I lose all my fears and take all the risks He sets before me to show people how valuable they are and how important it is they never give up hope.
Read these words over and over again:
“‘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”
Think about what they mean. Let them soak into your life. Examine your heart and who you are. Take risks. Love. Love. Love.