Out of these passages we have what is commonly called the Great Commandment. Jesus sums up the entire law with two phrases, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." Even after the religious people try to justify themselves, Jesus is clear that out neighbor is anyone we come across that is in need.
These are encouraging and challenging passages all at the same time. Encouraging because of their clarity. Want to know what it means to live like Jesus and follow after God, live the Great Commandment. Challenging because of how difficult this often is to do. Perhaps it would be easier to do if Jesus would have made some wiggle room. Do your level best to love God, do your best to love your neighbor. Or perhaps Jesus could have said to like God when God does what we want and like other people that are just like us. But no, that is not what Jesus taught.
Love is a big part of marriage. Many people have 1 Corinthians 13 read at their wedding as it outlines a teaching about love. A marriage without love is not a marriage at all. Our first love is to love God more than anything else in all creation and to do so with all of our being. Out of that love we can begin to show love for other people.
Loving other people is when things get real messy because people are messy. The temptation is to work hard so that we can avoid the messiness of people. This is where we prefer to use our own definition of who our neighbor is rather than the one that Jesus gives us. Even more challenging can be to realize that loving our spouse can be part of the mess as we are married to people and people are messy.
Perhaps the words of Jesus were about all the people we encounter, not just those who are in need. Jesus is instructing us to love everyone we encounter with the same love that God has shown for us and that we show for God. This type of love begins right at home, right in the context of a marriage. More than a romantic or glamorous love, this is the love of journeying day-to-day through the fullness of life. This is living in love as children are shuttled off to activities, work deadlines loom and all the messiness of dealing with people is very real. Love that binds two people together as God is bound to humanity.