Graceline: Love thyself, love God

April 8, 2013 

Ever read a verse in the Bible 100 times, and then you read it again, and it’s like you are reading it for the very first time?

A religious scholar tried to make Jesus look bad. He asked, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

I tried to love God with all my heart, soul and mind, but I just couldn’t do it. I was so frustrated I couldn’t obey the first and greatest commandment. I completely overlooked the second one, which Jesus said was equally important.

God revealed to me I did love my neighbor as I loved myself. The problem was I did not love myself. I did not think someone as imperfect and flawed as myself was worthy of anyone’s love, especially God’s love. At that moment, the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I understood a verse for the first time I had read hundreds of times. It was my key to freedom.

God gave this key to the apostle John , who wrote: “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. We love each other because He loved us first.”

How could I have missed that all these years? I was trying to give something I had never received. God had loved me all this time, but I simply did not trust Him enough to allow Him to do so.

You ask me why He loves me and I don’t know what to say, but I will never be the same because His love, not mine, transformed my life. We can only love because we let Him love us first. Then, and only then, are we able and more than willing to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. I thought God was commanding me to love Him, when all the while it was He who wanted to love me.

Kenny Ashley is pastor of The Journey, which meets Sundays at Oakridge Middle School in Lake Wylie.

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