Loving others more, when we love them less than Jesus

“You’re not my world”

“You don’t complete me”

“You’re not my everything”

“I can live without you”

In love, those are actual phrases you’d regularly hear in my marriage if you lived with us this past year and a half. My husband and I have needed to remind one another that we’re loved by and we love Jesus more than one another. He’s been guarding and protecting our hearts from the temptation to love one another more than Jesus.

Because the truth is this:

Jesus is our world.

Jesus completes us.

Jesus is our everything.

We can’t live without Jesus.

We’re loved by Jesus and we love Jesus more than one another.

You might think that sounds intense or wrong or weird… but, is it? Jesus said:

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NLT)

By comparison, Jesus calls our love and loyalty to Him to be beyond all else. It must be so much more than even our own life that it looks like “hate”.

I remember the first time I read Luke 14:26 I felt threatened. “Jesus, you want me to do what?! Oh! I know! You were speaking to a specific audience… not me…” We’ve all been there with certain parts of the Bible, right?

In hindsight, I think it upset me because I knew my love and loyalty to Christ was not incomparable to other loves in my life. I knew I loved others far more than Jesus. It seemed straight up impossible to imagine loving Jesus the way He commanded! One thing shattered that impossibility for me in college, though. It was God’s love.

I can’t remember one specific experience – it was more like a thousand experiences with God’s love over and over again. Through community, creation, art, work, music, prayer, His word – you name it. There were so many tender moments in college where I first learned about God’s love for us. By tender I mean up-close-and-personal moments when God revealed what kind of love He offers us. This indescribable love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) was unlike anything I’d ever known. When I first started experiencing God’s supernatural love with His people it changed everything. Especially my heart and desires.

Even so – there are still times when I read this passage in Luke and it bothers me. Lately, that’s because of how much I love my husband. Our marriage is by no means perfect, but it is pretty awesome. My husband is a man I deeply love and am loved by. He leads our family with such courage and selflessness. He’s a great friend, provider, and romancer. Day-after-day he lives with such consistent steadfastness, gentleness, and peace. I’m filled with deep respect and admiration for him. Best of all, the way he loves me points me straight to Jesus. 

You might be thinking, “What’s the problem?” Well, sometimes I think I actually love him too much. It pains me to admit, but by too much, I mean more than Jesus. When adoring thoughts of him take over my mind more than Jesus. When I have more loving words for him than Jesus. When I go to him first with the depths of my heart instead of Jesus. When, when, when.

Our hearts are bent on loving lesser loves in this fallen world. I think that’s why we need to remind one another of passages like this! Reminding one another keeps us rooted and grounded in His love – the everlasting and eternal love.

As if we needed another reason to love Jesus more than anyone else, He’s the only one we will be married to in heaven.

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30, ESV).

We will be one with our true Bridegroom (God), and we (the Church) will be His Bride. Again, that might sound intense or wrong or weird, but is it? I think the reason it’s hard for us to find comfort or joy in passages like this, is because we love lesser loves. But this is really good news! Our covenant-relationship with Jesus is forever. By reminding us we won’t be married to anyone but Jesus in heaven, God keeps our hope and confidence in a love-promise that is sure. It’s the only love we will ever know that’s permanent and eternal. We were created for this love. When we believe this, these hard truths actually produce joy in us.

I don’t know what relationships you find closer than Jesus – maybe it’s a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a co-worker, a neighbor, a parent, or a child. But I do know this: These relationships aren’t meant to be our all in all, but to point us to the One who is. While it seems backward or counterintuitive we actually end up loving others more when we love them less than Jesus. The more we know the love of the Father, the more freely we give others His love without expecting anything in return. In other words, when we love Jesus more than everyone else, we can more truly love.

I’ve seen this play out again and again in my own marriage. The more I experience God’s’ love, the more freely I’m able to love my husband. I’ve naturally been more willing to give my time and attention to his verbal processing with patience. I’ve naturally been more willing to help him finish dishes when he needs it with joy in my heart. I’ve naturally been more willing to extend him grace when I feel hurt by him. These are expressions of the Father’s love – not my own. Overflowing God’s love to my husband keeps me from making sacrifices only to fill an unmet need in my heart. I pour out love because I’m learning how deeply I’m loved, and how deeply God loves my husband. In this revelation, I want to point him to God’s ultimate love. I want my husband to experience the deepest, surest, and most satisfying love there is. And when I humble myself and put my husband’s needs above my own, I realize that love is God’s, not mine.

Beloved, may we have a revelation of His love for us (the Church), and in return, may we love Him more than anyone else. 

Father, we admit that we are often numb to how loved we are by you and passionate about loving those closest to us. It’s sobering to think about how often we love others with more loyalty and devotion than you. Forgive us.

Holy Spirit, transform our hearts and minds. Give us a revelation of Jesus’ love towards us. Awaken us to how much you truly delight in showing steadfast love to us. Teach us to long for and look forward to eternal marriage with you. Give us humble minds and tender hearts when we read passages that confront us. We recognize that we cannot change our hearts desire for you on our own effort. We need you to move on our behalf. Have your way in us. By learning to love you most, we know we will truly love others more. Your truth fills us with joy!

Jesus, you alone are our world. You alone complete us. You are our everything. We can’t live without you. We are loved by you and love you more than anyone in this world. In Jesus name, amen.

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