In this life, some things just have to go together. Most people would agree that a plain peanut butter sandwich is lacking. It needs something else to complete the picture. At dinner time, rarely do we pass the salt or the pepper alone- they get dished around as a pair. Mornings and coffee. Hot summer days and ice cream. Weddings and a white dress. The list could on with items that that are made complete by the addition of one other.
Around our house lately, the combination has been "sleep" and "pink blanket" for my two year old daughter. At her birth, she was gifted with literally dozens of wonderfully soft baby blankets. But over the last year, one in particular has become her special favorite. If we even attempt to put her down for the night with an imitation blanket, she can sniff it out a mile away. This can become problematic when the pink blanket is smelly and dirty and sitting in the washing machine, while Alyssa cries for her pink blanket. For her, sleep and her blanket are an inseparable pair.
You may know this already, but Jesus calls us to remember such a dynamic combination. When a religious man came up to him and asked, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?", Jesus couldn't help but give two. The ideas were so linked together that Jesus couldn't quote one without tagging on the other. Jesus told him, "to love the Lord your God with all that you have and all that you are," and quickly went on, "and to love people around you as you love yourself."
This passage is reference over and over in churches and gathering of Christ-followers. It's what we base our faith on- loving God and loving others. Yet while we value this combination as a statement, we don't always live it out as a reality. You see, most people are convinced that if they simply grow in their love for God, they are doing alright. But I would contend that it is impossible to grow in our love for God without also growing in our love for people.
We may say, "My relationship with God is as deep as it has ever been!", but if we don't also find ourselves more compassionate and gracious towards other people, than I would question if we were closer to God at all, or merely enjoying religious sentiment and emotion. It is a false notion that we can grow closer to God without also growing closer to other people. Why? Because God is that way, and because God designed us that way. I have often heard people say something to the effect of, "I don't need church or other believers to help me grow in my faith. I am fine on my own." But God in his very nature shows us that growth towards him will always result in growth towards other people.
I'm not saying that the only way we know God is through other people, but I have been reminded that the greatest barometer of my love for God always has been and always will be my love for other people. The person who says in his heart, "I love God" but at the same time refuses to love another person proves that their love for God is selfish, shallow, and artificial.
As you grow close to the heart of the Father, may you find His love being directed through you to other people. Become a conduit of his love as you journey on. Together.