Note: If you are reading through the New Testament with me, today’s reading is Mark 12.
The other day, I was tickling my almost 2 year old son. He was laughing and trying desperately to wiggle away. This didn’t go on long before my 3 year old daughter ran up and said, “Tickle me too daddy!” Now does my little girl just love to be ticked? No, she asked me to stop as soon as I started. What she was longing for was not tickling, she wanted to be included. We’re not much different as we grow up are we? From our social media posts, to our friendships, to our dating ventures, we just want to be included. We were designed for relationships. Deep in our core we have a longing to love and be loved.
The problem is, we seek from horizontal relationships (with people) what can only come from our vertical relationship (with God). Our hunt for satisfaction in horizontal relationships always disappoints. You are looking to satisfy your deepest longings, to establish your most basic identity, with another sinful person. They will always let you down.
Not only that, you will crush those you are trying to find satisfaction in with a burden that only God can bear. Your parents, your friends, your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancee, spouse or even your pastor can not satisfy you. As you become dissatisfied, your longing for relationship turns into selfishness. “He always lets me down.” “She never follows through” “They just aren’t the kinds of friends I need.” And this selfish frustration turns you from a servant friend to a demanding king. “I need you to come through for me.”
The problem is not our deep longing for relationship. That is God given. The problem is our sin. Our sin turns us inward instead of upward. Our sin turns our longing for love into selfish demands. Our sin causes us to lose sight of God and seek satisfaction in people. What’s the remedy? Jesus. God shows us all satisfying love in Jesus and invites us to love him back.
“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.””
– Mark 12:29–31
Yes! We are to love horizontally. We are to love our neighbor. But first we love God. We love God in response to the great love he showed us on the cross. We love him because he satisfies. He saves. He gives us a new heart and a new perspective. And then, and only then, can we love others. In Christ, we find the ability to love others as we love ourselves, instead of loving others to satisfy ourselves.
In Jesus we find everything we need. Not just to satisfy our longing for relationship, but also to empower our relationships with others. In Jesus we find the strong resting place our hearts long for, removing the burden of our self seeking love from our those around us.
“7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
– 1 John 4:7–12