There are two commandments that stand out within the entire Bible and are particularly emphasized by Jesus in the New Testament. The first commandment is to love God and the second is to love other people. The first is first and the second is second–they aren’t equal. If we forget to love God, it really doesn’t matter how much we love people (1 Cor 13). The first commandment is a requirement for the second, and it is greater (Mat 22:37-38).
I’ve mentioned these commandments before, but it’s very important to recognize the difference between them. They wouldn’t be highlighted separately if they were the same; thus, we do not love God BY loving other people, we love God THEN we love other people. This is not a subtle difference.
So how do we love God? Scripture says we love God by keeping His commandments–we completely submit ourselves to God in obedience of whatever He has for us (John 15:1-11).
This is why loving God has to happen before the loving of people: God has a specific design for how we should individually love those in our spheres of influence. We aren’t called to random acts of kindness; we’re called to specific works which He prepared beforehand for us to do (Eph 2:10)!
If we neglect to focus on a relationship with the Lord foremost (on truly and wholeheartedly loving Him), then instead of being led by His voice to pour out His love, we become recklessly attempting to earn or prove our salvation to God, ourselves and the world. We may help people to feel good in the now, but aren’t able to offer them insight toward a stable relationship with the Lord because we don’t have it for ourselves; what is Christianity unless Christians can offer both? This ‘being good’ wears us out, makes us feel constantly inadequate or in competition with others, and most importantly, it doesn’t work–God knows our heart.
The ‘goodness’ has to come from the inside out. As we spend time with Him, we know Him and love Him. He gives us a heart to love Him–more and more as we seek Him–because He knows how small we are. And as we completely submit to Him in love, we can’t help but be stirred in our spirits to help His other loves. It really does happen naturally. And it brings with it a confidence of being a true heir and son or daughter to the Most High God.