“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39).
These are verses that we as Christians hear quite a lot. No matter the denomination or tradition, this “first and greatest commandment” is pretty universal. Having a personal relationship with God is a basic building block of our faith – loving God because He loves us. We can’t actually see God, though. We can’t go for walks with Him, cook dinner with Him, or spend hours conversing with Him. We can’t call Him, FaceTime Him, or text Him. Realistically, spending time with Him looks like reading scripture and praying. Maybe, on a good day, we can hear the faintest whisper of a response, or get a strong feeling that we are supposed to do something even if we aren’t sure why. So what does genuinely loving God actually look like? What does it look like to have a personal relationship with Him when we can’t see Him?
For a long time, I believed that the only way to fulfill the first greatest commandment was through the second – through serving His people. In my mind, this was the only tangible way to love God. Although we can love the Lord with all of out heart, soul, mind, and strength in relationships, our worship of Him extends past our interactions with others.
I gained this new perspective through reading Mark 14. Jesus is reclining at his friend’s home, and is suddenly approached by a woman who takes an alabaster jar of pure nard – which is an extremely expensive perfume oil – and breaks it above Jesus’s head, spilling it all over Him. When onlookers witness this, they rebuke her and tell her that what she did was a waste – that the perfume could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor, especially since it was worth more than a year’s wages. Technically, the disciples were right. If she was trying to do as much as she could to serve others, this would have been a mistake. But if she was loving God with all of her being, this was an act of great magnitude and reverence. Jesus calms the onlookers and says that what the woman did was beautiful – her act was preparing Him for burial.
He says, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (Mark 14:7).
Her act of immense adoration shows that while there were clearly other ways she could have used her time and money, it didn’t matter because all she saw was Jesus. She didn’t care that there was a room full of people watching her, that her actions didn’t make sense, or that she would face backlash from the people around her. All she saw was Jesus. She put herself on the line for Him. She made herself vulnerable to Him. She poured out, not only the perfume, but her love.
In our culture, we constantly talk about forgiveness and redemption, only to “make up” for our sins by tithing on Sunday or simply being kind to those around us. But when is the last time we committed to putting ourselves on the line for Christ — not just as our God and King, but as the Forgiver, Redeemer, Lover, and Creator of our souls? Putting ourselves on the line for Christ looks like acts of love, similar in nature to Mary’s. Realistically, these “acts of love” would be different from person to person. God calls each of us to do different things that fit into His plan, and further serve His kingdom. This could start with a simple prayer of relinquishing control, telling God that we are open to His plans even if it looks different from our own. When He does call us out of our comfort zone, we can submit to His will and serve Him in the midst of that area of weakness. I have found it will often turn into something beautiful. He doesn’t deserve just 10 percent of us or to be given the glory only when we interact with others. He deserves all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths to be poured out at His feet.
We have the privilege of being loved desperately by the King of the universe. I want Him to know that I love Him back so deeply that I would put everything I have in jeopardy just to show it. I want this to be my ultimate life’s purpose: To pour out my life like perfume as an offering to my God and my King. We as Christians should serve not only His people, but God Himself. God will reveal what that looks like for each of us, and He delights in us as His children and in our desire to serve Him.
What are the alabaster jars that He is asking us to surrender to Him? What will it look like for us to honor the first and greatest commandment?