Love – Do You Love Yourself Or God?

As each day unfolded in Pop’s final days on this earth, thoughts of what I might say did not come easy. It wasn’t because I couldn’t think of anything to say about Pop, but there were so many things, that narrowing it down to just one thing was difficult. What could I say about this bald-headed wonder that would articulate who he was? After much prayer, I chose what I believe to be the greatest description of Pop, which summarizes who he was – loving.

Pop loved well – all his family and his friends. He was a true gentleman, funny, handy, a perfectionist, smart, intelligent, generous, often giving money to whoever needed it, with no expectations of ever getting it back. I remember all the times I’d be leaving Georgia to head home, and he would slide me a couple hundred bucks for food and gas. He always seemed to have cash on hand.

I want to share what I wrote and delivered at his celebration of life service on August 26, 2023. I pray these words will be an encouragement to you.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Where did love start? We must go back to the beginning. In the beginning – God, the creator of heaven and earth.

The Bible says God is love.

1 John 4:7-11, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for loves comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

God is the greatest example of what love looks like.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son (Jesus) that whosoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life.”

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment. Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Jesus tells us what we are to do. We are to love God first, and then love our neighbor as ourselves.

We struggle with this, don’t we? We struggle with loving God first, and then loving others. We don’t get it right every day, do we?

As a matter of fact, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we may go many days without saying anything to the Lord, without telling God how much we love him, and yet that is the first thing we are told to do – Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And then love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said those are the two greatest commandments.

Why is it a struggle to love God and then love our neighbor? I believe it comes down to one word – Self.

We love ourselves more.

The world would have you believe self is more important – reasons vary.

But if you notice, putting oneself first doesn’t garner all the blessings God has for you. The love of God is greater than anything this world has to offer, and yet, many reject God’s love because it doesn’t look or feel like anything we see. It doesn’t feel immediate, satisfactory, mountain-moving, or earth-shaking. Maybe you’re missing the butterflies. And because we can’t see or touch God, then God’s love must not be real. Hence many would say there is no God. That’s fairytale thinking.

Some may say there is no God because of what is happening in the world today. How could a loving God allow certain things to happen? If he was so loving, why this or that? Why sickness and disease? Why pain and loss?

Again, I would direct you back to the beginning – In the Beginning – God.

We get three chapters into the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and already we see the enemy wasting no time causing doubt in the woman’s mind by asking, “Did God really say?” And what else did the enemy say to the woman? If you eat from the tree, you will be like God. There it is – self.

And as a result of the woman listening to the enemy, sin enters the world, and everything changes for you and me.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, everything changed – but one thing – God’s love. Despite their sinfulness of eating from the one tree they had been instructed not to eat, God still loved them. Did he kick them out of the garden? Sure.

Some discipline is also loving.

Did God stop there and decide to forgo humanity completely from then on? No. Did humanity forget about God? Many did as we read in the Bible and suffered as a result. Many still do today.

God sent Jesus, his son, to the earth to save all who were lost and separated from him. However, he didn’t force us but gave us all free will to choose him.

So, do we choose to love ourselves or choose to love God?

God is love.

Do we choose to love God, then our neighbors, then ourselves as Jesus says in the book of Matthew?

I believe many people have it backward – they choose to love themselves first, then others, then God, or a god of their choosing.

Many are not living the life God intended for them.

God intended? God had a plan and purpose? Yes, because he is love.

God loved my stepdad even more than I loved him. According to his sister, he loved the Lord. I would say he tried to love to the best of his ability – the Lord first, then his neighbor, and lastly himself.

So today as I remember my stepdad, Ron, I think I can safely say Ron loved and he loved greatly.

When I think of Ron’s love for me and others, I ask myself this question – am I loving the way I should?

Am I loving the Lord God first, then my neighbor, and then myself or am I loving myself first?

Remember what I shared when I started? The definition of love. The Bible shares 16 characteristics of love.

Love is:

Patient. kind. not envious, not boastful, not proud. does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. never fails.”

When reading the list of how love is defined in the Bible, and looking at my stepdad’s life, I see many of those qualities. I also see that I have some work to do in this area.

What about you?

When I look at Pop’s life, what does God want me to learn from it?

Whatever the case may be, what does God want me to take away from this? God put this man on the earth for a reason, at this time, and there is something to be learned from the life my stepdad lived. What can I learn from his life that will impact those around me?

I believe my stepdad Ron would want you to experience the love of God that is available to everyone. He would want you to know God’s son, Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. He would want you to know that Jesus is the Son of God who sacrificed his life for you and me, and paid a debt on the cross we couldn’t pay.

I was reminded of who Jesus is.

The King of kings, Lord of Lords, the first and the last. The beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the good shepherd, the vine, the light of the world, the salt, the gate, the victor, the truth. He is the savior of the world. And one day he is coming back to reign forever, and based on how things are going, that day could be very soon. Are you ready?

If you are reading this and you have never experienced the love of God, and you have not accepted Jesus into your heart as Lord of your life, please check out the rest of my website. I would also encourage you to contact a local Bible-believing church.

If you know Jesus but are saying to yourself, “I don’t think I have a close relationship with the Lord and I am failing on this love thing”, you can change that starting today. Pray and ask God to help you.

Or perhaps you feel that your sin is too big for God, that he won’t forgive you. Our God is loving and bigger than all that and longs to draw you closer to him. He is capable of forgiving all your sins if you would only ask him to. Pray and repent of your sin today.

God is loving!

Don’t waste time. God is waiting for you.

Blessings,

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