Love God, love your neighbour, love yourself and then what?
Every time we go to church we hear that we should love God and love our neighbour as our self. OK, it’s hard to do all three at the same time but when we can what is the effect – what do we get in return?
One answer is we experience pure joy. It’s a unique quality that runs deep and transcends normal opposites like happiness and sadness and love and hate. Joy gives us hope in the face of adversity. You can read about joy in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you…
However, I am going to tell you another story. It’s not in the Bible; in fact I don’t know where it came from – I heard it on the radio early one Sunday morning and I would like to share it with you.
There was a man who was very devout. He went to church every Sunday, gave money to the poor and said his prayers every day. And yet he felt there was something missing. He knew a local shopkeeper who did not always go to church; he was always working in his shop and yet he was very popular. He was also very joyful, all the time, always smiling and offering wise words to his customers, who loved him and regarded him as rather a saint. The man decided to confide his troubles to the shopkeeper.
‘What is missing from my life?’ He asked. ‘I do all the right things but I cannot help but notice how popular you are and how much joy there is in you’. The shopkeeper thought for a moment and set the man a task.
‘Take this pot (which was filled to the brim with mercury) and walk to the end of the street, turn around and come back and make sure you do not spill a single drop’.
The man set off. It took a long time and great concentration but eventually he achieved the task.
He felt tired but not particularly joyful after his accomplishment.
‘Well done’, said the shopkeeper. ‘Now, in all the time you were carrying the pot, how much was your mind on the Lord?’ ‘Not at all,’ said the man, ‘I was too busy concentrating on not spilling the mercury’.
‘There is your problem’, said the shopkeeper. ‘You see, all the time I work in my shop I think of my love for the Lord. Other people recognise this and I love them and they love me’.
Can we also spend some time thinking about and praying to Jesus when we are not in church, when we are at work, or whatever we do during the week? It could open up a little space in our hearts such that we can experience that joy of what it is to love and be loved.