“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39
It was during a get-to-know-each other small group exercise at an event I attended a few years ago when I met Brenda. In the course of that exercise she shared with us that her father had played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Immediately someone in the group popped off, “So, was your daddy famous?” With that a soft, tender smile appeared on her face. “He was to me,” she replied sweetly, almost in a whisper. (Her father was Charlie Neal if you want to look him up.)
Those four softly-spoken reverent words revealed more about Brenda’s father’s character than I imagine any well-crafted biography ever could. He was “famous” in her eyes, you see, far beyond being a great athlete and a loving father; to her he was an extraordinary human being. But what is it that makes an extraordinary human being? I have observed three things. First of all, extraordinary people seem to have a purpose in life, a purpose much larger than themselves. Second, they know themselves well, their gifts, talents, and strengths, as well as their weaknesses and how to compensate for them. In other words, they know who they are as well as who they are not. Finally, they have a keen understanding of others and a deep compassion and concern for their fellow human beings.
Scripture provides a clear formula for an extraordinary life and the ideal model we should strive for. First is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. That should be our ultimate purpose in life. Second is “like it”, to love our neighbor as ourselves. This requires that we must first understand and respect ourselves, not in an egocentric way, but so we are able to develop and use our unique gifts and talents to their highest potential. Then we can understand other people in the same way we understand ourselves and begin to model God’s love in the way we treat our neighbors. It is a perfect model we are given. Look around and you’ll see these characteristics in all extraordinary human beings – parents, teachers, leaders, all sorts of great people. It’s what makes them extraordinary. It’s what made Brenda’s daddy “famous” in her eyes.