Loving God with our whole hearts, and loving our neighbors as ourselves – how are those two actions connected?
One simple, seemingly obvious answer is that it is more difficult to love our neighbors if we don’t love God, first. It is when we are in relationship with Him that we learn how to love others. We have His example of loving us, and we learn from it, even as we respond to Him in love.
But what if loving our neighbors is also a way of helping us to learn to love God?
I think that may be a big part of it. Loving the person I can see and interact with provides valuable experience in how love actually behaves. I hear from Scripture (1 Corinthians 13) what love is – patient, kind, hopeful – and I put those qualities in practice as I actually try to love my neighbor.
I read in Scripture that “love does not rejoice at what is wrong, but rejoices in what is right,” and that description affects how I relate to those around me.
I see that “love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude,” and I try to adjust my actions accordingly as I deal with the people in my everyday life.
And all the time, this practicing of the quality of love is changing me, and teaching me at the same time, to love God.