When you title a post “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn” you get some people who are convinced you’ve lost your mind. Perhaps they think you’ve just succumbed to a massive ego trip.
But last week my wife and I were listening to Nat King Cole and one of his classics called “Nature Boy” came on. Nat sings of meeting an enchanted boy who tells him, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
And this isn’t a new concept. It’s actually biblical.
From the beginning of Creation to the coming end of the world (no predictions – Jesus says quite clearly that no one knows) – God is all about love. His love for humanity is the driving force behind everything He does. The whole story of redemption is about God’s incredible love for us.
And our response to a loving Creator is a response of love. In the Jewish community, the driving theme is the Shema – the central prayer of the Jewish prayer book. Many Jews recite it twice daily.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
In the New Testament, Jesus reinforces this idea when someone asks him, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answers, “The greatest is to love the Lord your God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.”
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is love.
And love isn’t a schmaltzy feel-good kind of thing. It’s easy to love someone when there is a warm fuzzy feeling. But that’s not love. In the Bible love is not lip-service and fuzzies. Love is active behavior.
One verse of the Bible many non-believers have heard is John 3:16 ~
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And in our culture we hear that phrase “so loved the world” and interpret to mean the quantity of God’s love. We read it, “God loved the world SO much…”. but that’s a poor understanding of the word. It’s not about quantity – it’s about action. A better way of phrasing it would be:
This is how God loved the world – that he gave is only Son…
God’s love is something that is demonstrated in a very palpable way.
At one point Jesus tells his disciples:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
But we miss the mark, don’t we? We often decided that we’ll just tolerate (at best) others. We don’t actually LOVE. We don’t sacrifice for others. We give out of our surplus, but not out of our scarcity.
When someone really LOVES something they’re willing to get stupid about it.
But when it comes to loving others we’re not willing to get stupid about it. We’re reserved. In John’s 1st letter he tells people, “How can you not help someone in need if you have the ability? Where’s the love?”
God’s love in us compels us to be people of love towards others.
In the end, Nat King Cole had it right. The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return. It’s the way of Jesus.
In the way we talk to people.
In the way we talk about people.
In the way we treat people.