“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
To love God is “the first and greatest commandment,” so one would think that this is would be, alongside loving others, the most important priority we have in youth ministry.
But what does it actually mean?
When I met Christ, and was starting to grow in my understanding of what that actually looked like, I remember singing songs and even memorizing verses about loving God. And, frankly, I don’t remember feeling very comforted by much of it.
I wanted to love God, but I didn’t know how. I loved my parents (especially in retrospect), and I (kind of) loved my siblings. But that was sort of under the radar of the “supposed to” kind of love I was learning about in church.
What I did know is I loved my dog, I loved to play drums and basketball. I loved the feeling I got when a girl paid attention to me, or when a coach noticed that I had done something right for a change. I also loved driving fast with John Tuttle (and, truth be told, I loved my friend John, but, again, it wasn’t something I thought about… it just felt good to hang out).
But “love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind?” Although I wasn’t that great at English, I knew that this was something it was my job to do.
As I’ve gotten older I have a little more understanding of what love is and means and looks like (I’ve been married to my only love for 31 years, and that’s been a great theological laboratory). And I also have come to recognize that my loving God is actually as organic and natural as breathing, as we seek to know and trust Jesus. It is not so much about me and us loving him, but that he has first loved me, and us. Perhaps we need to help kids to see this, and to learn what it means to rest in this truth.
I am so glad we’re talking about loving God in this issue of Youthworker Journal (coming out in January, 2012). I hope you will be, too.