“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
When asked what’s most important to you, how do you answer? What comes to the top of your mind? To the tip of your tongue?
Jesus’ answer starts and ends with love. Not the kind of love we think of, but a very real, dependable, certain kind of love. This kind of love is not:
· Groundless – mindless, repetitious, wrote habit.
· Gushy – high on a feeling of excitement or ecstasy.
· Gumby – form that easily bends.
· Gesture – waving or shaking hands.
But this kind of love is summed up by the idea of preferring someone to everyone else, or everything else. When you prefer someone, you choose them above and before all others.
When Mary Ann and I go to a large store, we normally come in together and then head in different directions. After I’m done looking for or at what I was interested in, I head back to find Mary Ann. I see lots and lots or people. And in my mind, I look around and have this conversation in my head with myself.
“Is this Mary Ann?”
Now, this is not to hate, despise, or have any negative thoughts of feelings about them. I’m sure that they are fine people and don’t kick their dogs. But they’re not Mary Ann. I keep this elimination process up until I get my magical “Yes” to the question. And when I get that “yes” I make a beeline towards her.
You see, it’s not that I don’t like these other people, but it’s that I prefer Mary Ann. Of all the nearly 8 billion people on planet Earth, she’s the one I prefer.
And because I prefer her. I want to please her. Make her happy. Meet her needs. Show her love. Want nothing but the best for her.
Preferring never keeps quiet. Preferring never sits still. Preferring always, always, always speaks up. Preferring always, always, always takes action.
And we’re to have this kind of preference for God. W’are to look for and choose him over everyone and everything. Whenever we’re presented with choices, we’re to prefer what God would want. And we do this because of who he is and all that he means to us.
There is no guilt, no forcing us at the point of a spear. And there’s no bribery or coupon for some future payoff. When we prefer God, our outlook is one of wanting to please him just for the sheer joy of pleasing him.
There are no hidden agendas. No “gotcha” down the road. No quid pro quo (favor for a favor.) The expectation box is left unchecked, it’s empty because there are none. It was done, it was said for the pleasure of God.
And that same kind of love, same kind of preference, same kind of choices are to be demonstrated towards our neighbors. Our lives are to be lived as preferring them. And when we prefer them, we want only what’s best for them. What will meet their deepest needs.
This isn’t a license just to make them happy, or to say what you think they want to hear. Sometimes this kind of love comes in the form of shooting straight, telling it like it is. Not with the intent to hurt, but a genuine desire to help.
My physician doesn’t pick up the phone and call me very often. But when he does, it’s important. As a matter of fact, I can only remember him calling me once. It was to tell me that the biopsy results came back saying that I had a melanoma cancer on my arm. He didn’t dump on me for staying in the sun too long as a kid, or for not wearing sunscreen and a shirt all my life. He told me what I needed to hear. What I needed to know. What I needed to do.
It was one of the most loving conversations I’ve ever had in my life. It didn’t make me feel all soft and gooey inside. I didn’t want to run through a field of wildflowers in my bare feet, with the wind blowing through my hair. I wasn’t inspired to sing a song or write a poem either.
But I knew that he preferred me, that he was looking out for me. He wanted nothing but the best for me.
That’s the kind of love that God has within himself and for you.
Do you have that kind of love for him? For others?