All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever. (1 Peter 1:24-25)
Whether you’re a country music fan or not, you’ve probably heard of Tim McGraw. His hit song “Live Like You Were Dying” tells the story of a man in the prime of life who was suddenly faced with the possibility of dying. As you can imagine, this was a pivotal moment for him – he stopped taking his life for granted and threw himself into adventures like skydiving, mountain climbing, and bull riding.
The chorus of the song contains the line, “someday I hope you get the chance / To live like you were dying.” Have you ever thought about what you’d do differently if you found out that you had only a short time left to live? Maybe things like skydiving and mountain climbing would be on your to-do list as well. In fact, maybe its time that we all (as the song says) “took a good long hard look” at what we’re doing with our lives, and what we would do differently if we thought that each day could be our last. After all, we really do have the chance to live every day like we were dying – being human has a 100% mortality rate (with the one exception of the God-man Jesus Christ).
While we don’t want to be morbid, keeping that 100% mortality rate in mind can help us set our priorities straight. The man in the song didn’t just go on adventures; he also “took a good long hard look” at his relationships. He “loved deeper,” “spoke sweeter,” became a better husband, and “became a friend a friend would like to have.” He forgave old grudges, and suddenly found that he did have the time to go fishing with loved ones.
Jesus tells us that it is important for us to put a high priority on the relationships in our lives. In the Gospel of Mark, he identifies the two most important things we can do: first, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and also, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He says, “There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30,31). The most important thing we can do in our lives is to focus on these relationships. First, we must be in a right relationship with God. The gift of faith and forgiveness in Christ makes this possible, and we should respond to this gift with our whole being (heart, soul, mind, and strength), seeking to grow in that relationship. As we mature in our relationship with God, love for our fellow humans – love active in deeds, not just warm fuzzy feelings – will follow.
It seems almost too easy that there are just two things that Jesus calls important here. But “loving God” means not just sending a thank-you prayer in God’s general direction every now and then, but actively trusting Him even when nothing seems to be going right, and walking in His will even when it seems like everyone else is walking in the opposite direction. And loving your neighbor doesn’t just mean baking cookies for the family next door, but might also mean making time for that family member you’d rather ignore, forgiving the friend who betrayed your trust, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Really, these two “simple” commandments encompass our entire life, and tell us that its time we “took a good long hard look” at all our relationships. Why wait for a dramatic wake-up call to start focusing on what’s important? God is calling to us all along, through His word and in the relationships in our lives.