I hope we all know the most important thing is to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. Beyond that, this passage reminds us of others who should receive our affection as well. As our author closes this letter, he wants to remind us all of what should be obvious but often forgotten.
Love one another. That can sometimes be hard. Especially loving those who are hard to love. We all had someone come to mind just now. Maybe it’s the crotchety neighbor or the busybody at church or the obnoxious, loud-mouth co-worker. We are brothers and sisters after all, and we should love each other as family. Love as Jesus loves.
Don’t forget strangers. In a world where there are crazy people around every corner, it’s hard to trust. Stranger danger has become a coined phrase. But strangers can become friends with just one conversation. Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet. Having started an online business, we have met many strangers over the past few years. It’s really opened my eyes. Some of my best friends right now are folks who were strangers just a few months ago!
The idea of angels is pretty cool, too. I’ve heard this verse used over the years and often wonder about it. I want to be so welcoming to everyone that it doesn’t matter if they are angels or not. Maybe I’m the “angel” or messenger God is going to use for someone else. Do angels have to be heavenly beings? The subject of angels has always intrigued me. I’ll save a discussion on angels for another post.
Have you ever visited a prison? I haven’t, but I have known people who work in prisons, bring the gospel to prisoners, and even ex-cons who were prisoners. My heart breaks for those who are in prison by mistake. Having worked in the public defender system for several years, all prisoners will claim they are there by mistake. It’s the common denominator. However, we are all sinners, these sinners just happened to have broken man’s law that put them in that place. God loves them still, and we need to remember that. It’s not okay to just lock ’em up and throw away the key.
How easy is it to love someone who is being mistreated? Pretty easy if you have a compassionate heart. We see videos of animal cruelty and feel shame. We see people homeless and ignored on the streets. Do we feel the same shame? There is a lot of inequality in this world, and we need to stop looking the other way, don’t you agree? What if we put ourselves in their place so we could feel as if it were us who were suffering?
Marriage relationships really take a blow with the busyness of life. Once the courtship is over, children come on the scene, and bills start piling up, what happens to the romance? One of the top 10 things we need to avoid is adultery, and this can so easily happen when couples let their marriage love drift apart. There are so many creative ways these days, for little or no money, to keep some fun in the marriage. Both husband and wife must be equally devoted to a successful marriage. I’ve always believed that a couple that prays together stays together. My words of advice to young couples just starting out, and a reminder for all of us.
Finally, the money talk. Don’t love money so much that it crowds out your ability to love all of the others who need your love. Love of money can be damaging to relationships and to self. When you get so preoccupied with success and having more and more money, it’s hard to let God direct you. Others begin to feel less loved than they deserve. Be very careful with your attitude toward money. It’s a subject that is spoken of in many different places in the Bible. It’s not that money is bad, it is when our attitude and ambition to have more chokes out all other relationships.
The promise of God that closes out today’s reading should sustain us in all circumstances. God never leaves us. “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” is this translation. The NIV translation is a little more familiar, at least to me because I have a picture that hangs on the wall with this verse, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Take time today to let these ideals of LOVE sink in. Can you be a better lover?
Let’s pray. Lord God, I love you with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. You have shown me what true love looks like. You love me unconditionally despite my flaws and failures. For that I am grateful. Help me to be as loving to others I know and those I have not yet met. Take away any prejudice in my heart for those who are unlovely. Fill me with the compassion I need to be more like you. Thank you that you are bringing people to me who need a word from you. Use me as your messenger of hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.