Love: The Great Commandment Of The Law
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
During this recent Labor Day weekend, my wife experienced some pretty severe tooth pain. It was to some degree immobilizing in its effect. I found myself, in this situation, as I have so many other times, feeling helpless and in complete lack of control. I so wanted to fix the problem, to have a solution and to make it better. But I was at a loss and really had nothing substantive to offer. I was grateful for prayer in those times and for the resources others provide that address more adequately these moments. What I don’t like to admit is that my motives for care and concern are not always very pure. When I do some inner reflection I realize that there is an underlying selfishness to my actions. I want others to be well so my way of life can selfishly go on uninterrupted. I don’t like this realization regarding my selfishness and self-centered behaviors. It is not pleasant, nor does it reflect the managed and manicured life I want others to see. When I think about the law of love Jesus advocated, my ego and selfishness are the major sources of resistance. It is to me that Jesus reiterates His most basic command, to love, and I definitely need the reminder.
Jesus seemed to indicate that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of my being (with all the heart, soul, strength and mind one has) and the second was to love my neighbor as myself. Every day I am faced with the call to love God and my neighbor. The question was put to Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” to further clarify the second part of the commandment to love. Jesus answered with a story about a certain man robbed and left for dead by the side of the road and the response of those who saw him in this condition. The moral of the story seemed to be that our tendency is to insulate ourselves and avoid the suffering of others, while the appropriate response is to love the person broken and marginalized on the side of the road.
In this world I am frequently confronted by the suffering of others along the way. Everyday I am faced with the question, “Who is my neighbor?” And quite possibly the answer is always the one who is in need of help, whatever that help is. My neighbor could be a person I may not know or with whom I don’t identify. My neighbor is the one robbed of or lacking the resources of life and in need of the resources I have. The neighbor, as defined by Jesus in the story, is the one I have the power and resources to help.
Yet too often I move away to the place of safety, insulation and avoidance, so I can continue uninterrupted on my way. But what if “my way” only leads me away from others in need into further selfishness and insulation. In the story it seems that the way, the path that Jesus celebrated, was the path and way that led one human being to move closer to another human being and share the resources of life. Jesus seems to celebrate the places where the gifts He has provided are made available to others who are in need. It was a racially charged moment, yet it was a profoundly human moment, an expression of humanity created in the image of God.
I desire and need God’s gracious help to move past the places of fear, the places of insulation and comfort, to share willingly and generously the resources of privilege, wealth and justice that God has allowed me to experience. God has intended for me to experience His blessing so that I might bless others of humanity. I am to be a good steward of the generous and unfailing love of Jesus. The insulation that fear produces easily leads to the breaking of the command to love my neighbor. Jesus always calls me to closer relationship, not just isolation and insulation. It would seem that to identify with human suffering, wherever it is manifest, is part of loving my neighbor. Lord, by your grace, help me to love you with my all, as you have loved me with your all. And then, Lord, help me as your steward to cross the road to the side where Your generous love is most relevant and needed. Here’s a song to further your reflection on love.