28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, ”The most important is, ’Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ”You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12
We can best evaluate how well we love by those around us. The people with whom we spend the most time are the best indicators of whether we’re walking Jesus’ walk and displaying the fruits of a Christian life. Often, such people know us better than we know ourselves. Our conceit and wishful self-perception do not deceive them. Often, I’m tempted to define how Godly I am by how much time I spend doing purely religious activities, like reading my Bible, praying, and doing charity work. That’s probably not the best test though. I suspect the best way to measure whether we’re living the Christian life is to evaluate how well we love God and those around us. Perhaps the best way to love God is to share his love with those whom he created and died for on the cross.
To determine whether you love, evaluate whether you are loved. Be sensitive to whether co-workers are happy to see you at the beginning of the day. When you come home, look for family members greeting you with a smile. Does the dog wag its tail or run the other way? Intimacy begins with your family. I think it’s an act of worship to know the dreams of each member of your family and to dream with them, to hold them and let them know you love them. Praise and thank God in their presence for the gift of their life. Praise and thank God in your private prayers for them. Seek intimacy with friends. I naturally keep walls up, as I suppose most people do. As Christians though, we should be committed to opening up and knowing and loving those that God puts on our path.
Marriage is “ground zero” for most of us in learning to love purely. The sacrament of marriage continually requires the Christian application of selfless love. In marriage, two become one. There is no better place to witness the presence or absence of Christ-like love. In unconditional love, the marital union blossoms into a life-long relationship of trust, happiness, and peace. Without it, the relationship or a spouse withers and dies.
Too many churches ignore the Apostle Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives. The media gives critical attention to the role of the New Testament wife. Namely, in the book of Ephesians, as well as in other places, Paul called on wives to submit to their husbands and established that husbands are the head of the family. Our secular, non-believing compatriots ignore Paul’s instruction. Even for believers, Paul’s admonition sounds harsh to our modern, egalitarian ears. Unfortunately, the press reports only half the story.
In the book of Ephesians, in the very next paragraph, Paul calls on husbands to love their wives, “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … .” (Eph. 5:25.) Christ loved the church unconditionally and completely. (John 15:13.) Paul calls for a radical commitment. Unfortunately, our secular friends are not the only ones to miss the significance of Paul’s complete instructions; many Christians fail to realize the radical nature of Paul’s instruction. God calls the Christian wife to submit to a man whose duty it is to unconditionally and completely love her, even unto the point of his death. The wife is to submit to her servant of love. In such a relationship, there is simply no room for egos, pride, or selfish desires. In a relationship of submission and servant love, divorce is unthinkable, which explains why God hates divorce. (Mal. 2:16.) Christian marriage should shine as a light to the world, especially a world where the majority of marriages end in the tears of loneliness, betrayal and divorce.
Of course, this is often easier to understand than it is to live it. I’ve heard about Dads coming home from a long days work and finding the house in complete disarray, dinner uncooked, children swinging from the chandeliers, and Mom displeased over the whole affair. Of course, I’ve never come home to such an estate, however, this is often considered a state of normalcy in homeschooling families … so I’ve read. It’s also not unheard of for the Dad to get angry over this and to let his dissatisfaction be known.
It recently occurred to me how differently we men respond to other “crises.” In the Army, if I moved to reinforce a fellow soldier’s position and found the enemy breaking through the wire, it wouldn’t occur to me to get mad and insist that my fellow soldier work harder. I’d immediately jump in and help. On the football field, if my running back fumbled the ball, instead of getting mad and looking for blame, I’d immediately jump to recover the ball for our team. Same on the soccer field; if a fellow defender was beaten, I’d do everything I could to help stop the shot on goal. I should have that exact same spirit and immediate response when I get home and find my spouse under duress, but that’s quite often not my natural response, yet my family is the most important team I’ll ever be on and my wife my lifetime MVP.
Let us encourage each other to be of good cheer and to do good works pleasing to Jesus. Rejoice!
See Todd Wilson’s Family Man ministry, blog and hilarious books here.