Where to begin: Love others well

by Shannon Caughey

When coaching, you know it’s not enough for your athletes to say, “Got it, Coach,” in response to your instructions. The real key is whether these athletes carry out what you emphasized to them. You’re looking for execution of your instructions to determine if they actually “got it.”

When Jesus gives instructions in Mark 12 regarding what’s most important, he starts with this commandment: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (v. 30). Jesus then continues: “The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (v. 31). In essence, Jesus is saying that executing the “love your neighbor” command shows that we truly “get” the “love the Lord” command.

As we start a new year, we’re considering what’s foundational for success – not only in coaching but in all of life. It’s good to focus from the beginning on what Jesus says is most important. In the last devotion, we reflected on the first command in Mark 12:30-31 – loving God with all that we are. Now we’re looking at what Jesus says is also crucial for success by his definition: loving other people well. As 1 John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” We cannot put the “love the Lord” command into practice without also executing the “love your neighbor as yourself” command.

What does it mean to carry out this second part of what Jesus says is most important? First, it involves recognizing that our neighbor includes anyone that God has placed around us in the various areas of life. Our neighbors are not just those we’re drawn to and find easy to like. It includes the athletes, parents, or administrators that are difficult. We fulfill Jesus’ command to love God through loving our neighbor when we seek to love those we’re tempted to avoid or ignore.

Second, carrying out Jesus’ “love your neighbor” command involves loving those around us well, not just doing the bare minimum. Think about what it looks like to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Most of us don’t have any trouble giving attention to ourselves, investing significant time and energy on ourselves, and taking action that benefits ourselves. What if we loved others with that same type of attention and active effort?

The coach who spends unhurried time with a player who offers nothing athletically to the team, who talks too much or is socially awkward – this is a coach who loves others well. The coach who willingly does a favor for a parent who often complains and criticizes – this is a coach who loves others well. The coach who is genuinely more concerned that each of his or her athletes flourish according to God’s design than that they help improve the coach’s win/loss record – this is a coach who loves others well.

At the beginning of this new year, be reminded of what’s foundational for real success: loving the Lord with all that you are and loving those around you well. In fact, you love the Lord as you execute Jesus’ “love your neighbor as yourself” command. When you coach and live according to what Jesus says is to be the primary focus, your life and your impact will be all about what is truly most important.

For reflection: Take a few minutes to consider how your coaching and your life show evidence of what Jesus says is most important – loving God through loving those around you. Ask the Lord to show you the next steps he wants you to take so that you will love other people well.

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