This past week I got to speak at one of my FCA huddles at school! I wanted to share with you all what I spoke about…
Last Thursday was Valentine’s Day so I thought it would be the perfect week to talk about love. Love is one of the most important parts of our faith. It’s the basis of our beliefs.
“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 22:37-40 NIV
The two greatest commandments are clearly stated here about love. Pretty much everything we believe in is based off of these two commandments. We are called to love ourselves, love each other and love God. So that’s what I am going to go into in this blog.
Personally, this might me the hardest one for me. Throughout High School I have struggled to love myself. It’s easy for me to love others and put my trust in them but it’s sometimes hard for me to do that for myself. Sometimes we think it’s more important to pour everything we have into other people and end up feeling empty. We’re always trying to please others and compare ourselves to them. When was the last time you intentionally told yourself I am proud of what I have done and I am confident in myself. For some of you, you may tell yourself that everyday, but for others it could be a rare occurrence. Even though we are called to love others, God still wants us to love ourselves. And you might be thinking where does it say in those verses to love yourself? It says love your neighbor and love God, but what about me. Well actually, when you love yourself you are honoring God as you are his creation and he delights in you. If the almighty God from heaven can love you, you can love yourself. And going back to my experience, this was a hard thing to realize. Last year I especially felt this weighing on me. My junior year was seemingly going well; I was doing well in school, I got some awards, and was even nominated to go to Boys State (a mock government summer program), but I still didn’t love my accomplishments and wasn’t truly proud of myself. Going into Boys State, I felt inferior to the other people who were nominated. I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I got super nervous leading up to it and the first day was scary. I still didn’t feel like I belonged there. It wasn’t until the second or third day that something changed. I was sitting alone and all of those thoughts about feeling inferior were racing through my head, but God spoke to me in that moment. The speaker said something very simple about being proud of everyone who made it and for some reason it hit me right there. I realized how much God had loved me and how proud he was of me for being there. It didn’t matter how far I got at Boys State or if I was the smartest one there because God was proud of me no matter what. So I want to speak to any of you who feel you are inferior or that you don’t measure up and tell you that you are loved and God loves you no matter what. In the midst of me saying this I still struggle and feel this way pretty often, but I keep pushing to get better. It’s a battle, but it’s a battle worth fighting. And once you can love yourself it becomes easier to love others.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” - John 13:34 NIV
Some of you guys might be thinking that loving others is easy. And sometimes it is, but often we find ourselves loving people conditionally. We find ourselves saying, if this person is nice to me, if this person is a good person, if this person makes me feel happy, if, if , and if. We can’t say we love someone without one of these conditions. But in Matthew 22:37-40 he doesn’t say love your nice neighbors, love your good neighbors, or even love your Christian neighbors. He just says love your neighbor. And there’s a difference between love and like that I’ve learned. Like is conditional. Like is they hurt me and I don’t LIKE them right now. Like is I like that movie, I like that food, I like that sport. But to love people is different. And in our culture the L word is so scary to use. But the truth is we can and should love everyone. That person who you know is going down the wrong path and is doing bad things is someone you are called to love. That person who was mean or annoying to you is someone you were called to love. So go spread love, and don’t hold back. We weren’t meant to give our love to only certain people at certain times. We are meant to love everyone despite times that we may not like them.
Lastly, this is the most important as everything else flows from it, we are called to love God. It’s the first and greatest commandment. So what does loving God mean? Well there are many ways to love God. Obeying his calling, praying to him, devoting your life to following Jesus are a few. But even more than that, when you love others and love yourself, you are loving God as that is what he calls us to do. He set the perfect example of love when he sent his son to die on the cross for our sins. This is unconditional love. And we can only try to follow that example by loving others and ourselves unconditionally.
All of these things together make up what we are called to do as Christians. It’s something that’s kinda simple when you think about it, but we make it so much more complicated. One person I think represents this idea of love really well is Mr. Rogers. I’m not sure if you guys know Mr. Rogers, but this past year I saw this great documentary about him called ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’. Mr. Rogers was a great man who hosted a children’s tv program and helped many young children grapple with serious, real life situations such as loss and divorce. But what many of you don’t know is that he was also an ordained minister. While he didn’t always use his platform to spread the gospel, he did spread love through his actions and everything he did for many children and people. He was once quoted saying “love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships, love or the lack of it”. Mr. Rogers showed love to everyone despite race, gender, sexual orientation, or disabilities. He loved all those people, and even more, despite anything they’ve done or were doing. And that’s what God wants us to be. He wants us to be people who love others no matter who they are or what they’ve done, and to love ourselves because he loves us. It can sometimes be hard to love in the midst of insecurities, loss, anxiety, and heartache, but God loves us all the time and he calls us to act upon his love and follow his example.