The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best. I know this sounds like preposterous gobbledygook to an unbeliever. How can you love someone best by loving someone else most? But those who have encountered the living Christ understand what I mean. They know the depth of love and breadth of grace that flows out from them toward others when they themselves are filled with love for God and all he is for them and means to them in Jesus. And they know the comparatively shallow and narrow love they feel toward others when their affection for God is ebbing.
There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). It functions like faith and works; if we truly have the first, the second naturally follows.
But if God is not the love of our life, there is no way that we will truly love our neighbor as ourselves. For we will love ourselves supremely.
He First Loved Us
The reason we will love others best when we love God most is that love in its truest, purest form only comes from God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Love is a fundamental part of his nature. We are only able to love him or anyone else because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are only able to give freely to others what we have received freely from him.
And as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), we are designed to love God and others in the same way that God loves God and others. God, being the most pure, perfect, powerful, and precious entity in existence, must love himself most in order to love everything else best, since everything else is “from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). If God loved something or someone else more than himself he would be violating the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) and the foremost commandment (Matthew 22:37–38). For God to love something or someone more than himself would be inappropriate, perverted, immoral. Like God, we must love him supremely in order to love everything else best.