What are the greats? When asked about the greatest commandments, Jesus gave two commands, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38). Then, after His resurrection, Jesus left His followers with one more great, the Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Churches often focus on obeying and following these greats that Jesus imparted to His followers.
Think for a moment about the activities and ministries that your church currently operates. Which of the greats do they fall under? Sunday morning worship services, evening prayer meetings, and times of communion could easily be categorized under loving God. Ideally, all of our discipleship efforts should reflect the Great Commission. Whether through forms of small groups, Bible studies, fellowship events, youth and children’s programming, baptism, or various mentoring models, churches have several methods of engaging in discipleship. What about loving our neighbor? Perhaps your church is rallying around vulnerable children, engaging in food security efforts, or actively seeking to alleviate poverty in your community. If so, be encouraged and keep pressing on! However, for many of us, those are probably not activities we think of when we reflect on our churches’ weekly schedule. Worship and discipleship are often seen as the essentials (and they are essentials!), but loving our neighbor seems more like an “if” than a command. If we have enough money in the budget, if we can get enough volunteers to sign-up, if we have the time and calendar space, then we might look at adding these extra activities. However, we must remember that it is indeed a command, not an option.
This command is challenging, it requires us to step outside of our buildings and routines, get to know our neighbors, and sacrificially love them. It is so hard to think about pouring our own resources into other things, especially if our churches are struggling with budgets and attendance. It seems counterintuitive, but isn’t that the way our God often operates? Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, the widow at Zarephath was asked to give Elijah the last of her food, the rich young ruler was asked to sell all of his possessions, the disciples were asked to leave their livelihoods, and of course our precious Jesus surrendered His very life. Those who obeyed were rewarded for their faithfulness, the one who did not obey, left grieving. You may have to give up finances or calendar space to truly love your neighbor. Obedience often requires sacrifice, but it is so worth it to be found faithful.
As we faithfully follow Him in obedience, we might begin to see that all of the greats are all intertwined. If we truly love God, then we will love the people He created. If we are truly making disciples, then we will be teaching them to love their neighbors. As we truly love our neighbors, we are going and making more disciples. All of the greats are great! Take time to evaluate your obedience. Is there a great you are ignoring? Let’s strive to follow and obey all that our great God has commanded us.