This is a very simple thought that the Lord has been plowing into my heart the last several days. It seems like every circumstance for the past week or so has pointed back to this principle: Love People, Like Things, Live for God.
Love People, Like Things.
As you read through the gospels, it doesn’t take long to realize how much God loves people. Jesus came to save people. The Spirit is diligently seeking after people. The Father desires a relationship with His people. God cares about people. He even loves people who curse Him and deny His existence. There is no reason to this crazy love – it is who God is, it is what God does… and He has called us to it too. Loving people.
Yet there are things in this world that get in our way. Stuff… Pleasures: Amusements, Events, Food, Sex, Entertainment. Possessions: Money, Malls, Gadgets, SUVs, Homes. Power: Accomplishment, Positions, Career. According to 1 John 2, this is what makes up our world. And these are the things that get in the way of loving people, which is why I’m commanded never to love the things in the world (v15). Instead of merely ‘liking’ these things, we get infatuated and over-ambitious about having more. We end up sacrificing our relationships on the altar of greed and lust. I should never say, “I love that iPod.” or “I love your car.” or “I just love that outfit.” Things are temporary. My love is eternal. I must never degrade myself by loving things that only deserve a liking.
Loving people should always come before liking things. When given a choice, I must love people (not just like them) and I must like things (never loving them). Sin enters in when I get these two out of whack. For example, in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul points to discontentment of things (love of money) is the root of all evil. ‘Evil’ doesn’t just mean sins. Evil means harm or injury to another person. Literally, when you place things in the ‘Love’ level, the people that should be there are wounded by their demotion to the lesser category of ‘Like.’
But Loving People is not the highest of principles. There is one greater: Living for God. If we were numbering these based on priority of importance: (3) Liking Things; (2) Loving People; (1) Living for God. People are greater than things, but people should never take the place of God. God must sit in His seat alone. I must love people, but never worship them. Jesus warned against having too many masters: “No man can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24)
Live for God
God always deserves the top position. He is the Preeminent One (Colossians 1:18). Everything is of Him, through Him, and to Him (Romans 11:36). When God holds the top position, that means that neither people nor things are my gods / idols. They might hold value, but no comparable significance. That’s why Jesus said that following Him would mean forsaking all – even family and friends (Luke 14:26). That sounds radical – but it nothing more than being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Living for God means that I will sacrifice the things that I like. When God & things are in their rightful places, then things mean less and less as God means more and more. Matthew 13:44 pictures Christ giving up things for His people, yet there is an application for us as well. Paul said that he had suffered the loss of all things for Christ (Philippians 3:7-10).
Living for God means that I will serve the people whom I love. Because God loves people, when I love God then I begin to love people the right way. I lose my craving for acceptance and desire only God’s approval. When God is on His throne of authority in my life, no other person’s opinion can cause me to sin or stumble. (At this point, I am my own worst enemy.) Just as Jesus served the disciples, He calls His followers to do the same (John 13:14). Pure religion is one of compassionate service to the needy, elderly, poor, and lost (James 2:27).
Are you living for God? I cannot truly live for God as Christ desires if I am loving the world or living to please people.