John chapter 13, verses 34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The above is not just a verse from the Bible, but they are also Jesus’ words of instruction to believers. Jesus referred to the commandment as new because the original and first commandment was explained earlier in Matthew chapter 22, verses 36-37: “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
So, if we take these commandments in chronological order, we need to first focus on our relationship with God – loving Him with all our heart, mind and soul. To love God with our heart means to align our inner motivations. To love God with our soul means to love with our external being. To love God with our mind means that our affection is grounded in our thoughts. To love from the heart is relatively easier compared to loving from the soul, which demands a greater level of commitment right to the very core of a person. In totality, heart, mind and soul combine to mean love expressed as both an affection and devotion.
The love we have for God our Heavenly Father will naturally lead us to thinking about the heart of God and how He would want us to live our lives. Love in action for us therefore becomes the love of God working within and through us. God loves the world and the people around us. In this way, loving God has a natural expression in loving others.
2020 is off to a rocky start. Here in Australia we have endured record bushfires which began in late 2019. As of early February, much of NSW and Victoria, along with Queensland and SA have burned. As hard as the loss of animal life and native bushland has been, we see even now, the early stages of bushfire recovery. God’s creation here in Australia has a wonderful propensity to recover from fire. Indeed, in the context of the long history of the Aboriginal people, fire has been a fact of life, being an instrument of renewal. The relationship of Australian natives to the land is a unique and prominent feature of their culture, so much so, that we from a Western-based culture do not fully appreciate that bond between the people and the land. It is through this kind of enriched understanding that I would suggest perhaps the Aborigines understand the heart of Jesus and God’s commandment to love one another – and their culture was one which enmeshed love right into their lifestyle of tending the plants and wildlife.
As Australia slowly recovers from the devastating bushfires, and we commence the long road to recovery, perhaps this is a great time for us a community to not just turn back to God and receive His love, but also, to show God’s love towards one another as we all play a part in rebuilding rural Australia?
2020: Wuhan coronavirus
As I caught up with friends over the Australia Day / Chinese New Year long weekend, we had the opportunity of laughing light-heartedly about how their earlier purchase of face masks had served an initial purpose with the bushfires and resultant haze. The conversation also then led on to the fact that the masks now served a dual purpose in protecting from the spread of the emergent Wuhan coronavirus.
This virus began from an outbreak in mid-December 2019, and is suspected to originate from a local exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. At the time of writing, it has infected over 20,000 people with close to 500 deaths. While a handful of deaths have started to emerge globally, the main impact remains within China for now, although some 170 nations report cases. Here in Melbourne, Chinese-centric locations like Box Hill and Glen Waverley have become sparse with a clear drop in traffic to these normally bustling centres of activity.
The increasing levels of actions announced by various bodies and governments that attempt to contain and control the virus are a necessary measure to protecting society. Churches, along with many group-based organisations encourage people to self-quarantine. For those of us who remain healthy and unaffected, here lies another opportunity for us to show love in a practical way. Whilst some people may be physically isolated, what is to stop us from loving our neighbours by doing shopping for them, or even dropping food off for them? Naturally, hygiene standards should be adhered to, but there is always a way to help out and demonstrate God’s love in a very practical way.
2020: Spread love not fear
While the year has begun with a greater number of challenges than most, the opportunity remains more than ever, for believers to show God’s love in practical and simple ways. Showing that we care has a greater impact given the self-quarantine and isolation that parts of our society may be practising.
As we seek God and His heavenly source of love, I pray that God will inspire you to new and creative ways to show His love for those around you. May Jesus be Jehovah Raffa, our healer in more ways than one – physically, mentally and spiritually to you all.
Nic Lee works by day as a Business Analyst Consultant whilst, outside of business hours, maintains an IT support & website services business. He volunteers with 89.9 LightFM (Christian Community Radio). Nic has served for over twenty years in his local church, in worship, technology consulting, life group leading and event management.