It took less than 30 seconds. Seriously. In less than 30 seconds I spoke some pretty ugly words about someone, bonded with others over it, and immediately started to feel like a heel, a jerk, and a disaster in living out my faith. This is not how Christians act, I told myself. And then it hit me – this is how Christians act. It’s how we act when we forget, dismiss, or ignore God’s presence.
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said, “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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Interestingly enough, the gospel writer notes that “after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.” Probably because they realized how difficult it was going to be to keep both of those commandments—especially the one about loving your neighbor as yourself!
Those commandments can be hard for us because we were created with individual free will to make decisions both good and bad. They’re hard because we forget how much God loves us, even at our worst, and so we forget to love ourselves. It’s almost impossible to give love to others if we don’t feel worthy.
Loving God takes a commitment from us, and oftentimes we dismiss just how much we need to sit quietly with him. God wants to speak to us. We can’t dismiss the importance of intentionally making room in our lives for a healthy and growing relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity itself is a picture of what we should strive for in loving God, ourselves, and others.
And in striving for those relationships, we will fail if we ignore the presence of God within us and every person around us. Even the people who try our patience, those who say hurtful things, and neighbors who aren’t exactly good neighbors… God lives in them all. We aren’t perfect; our neighbors aren’t perfect. But, God loves us and wants us to enjoy that same loving relationship with others. No, it isn’t possible for me to take back those 30 seconds of ugliness, but with God’s help I can redeem them and turn them into love by remembering, embracing, and listening to God.
Lord, help me to see your presence in myself and in every person around me. Help me to bring positive words to those who may not ever hear them, and to reflect your love to those who may not ever feel it. Amen.