Love, Jesus Style

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:36-39

love-Triangle-Nouwen


There were constantly people who seeking to trip Jesus up in one fashion or another. Jesus was playing a high stakes game with the Jewish leaders. He was challenging their rules and about to bring a tidal wave of change to their lives. For so long religious life had meandered along just as these leaders had desired but Jesus came with a new revelation, new ideas, and most dangerously, with great power. He was confronted by a teacher of the law with this question. “Which commandment is the greatest?” He answered with two which have three applications.

His first was to love God. That seems like an easy one, especially if it could be done in a vacuum. Think about it, God created us, he gives us life and He sustains us every day. That not a hard one. We would be fools not to love Him. The real challenge is how do we express such love? A simple solution would be to get up every morning and just tell Him we love him and keep Him on our mind all day. That seems like love to me but it only begins there.

Secondly, we are to love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors brings a plethora of unanswered questions. All of these questions are summed up in one. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answers this question many times in His teachings. Similarly, it is answered in Hebrew scripture as well.

• Live generously towards the poor and alien (Lev. 19:9–10).

• Do not steal from anyone (Lev. 19:11).

• Do not be deceptive in dealings with people (Lev. 19:11).

• Do not oppress, rob, or exploit the poor by paying unfair wages (Lev. 19:13).

• Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind (Lev. 19:14).

• Do not be partial to the poor or show favor to the great but judge honestly (Lev. 19:15).

• Do not commit financial fraud. (Lev. 19:16).

• Do not hate your brother (Lev. 19:17).

• Do not seek revenge or hold a grudge but extend forgiveness (Lev. 19:18).

These verses are part of the Levitical law and point toward proper treatment of All people. That leads me to conclude that all of God’s people are my neighbor. There is a third caveat to this teaching of Jesus that may prove to be the most difficult of all.

Love yourself – There is no love without self-love. If we mistrust ourselves and think lowly of ourselves we will be a very dreadful person. Perhaps the real problem with these Jewish leaders was their inability to love themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.

I share a poem that is credited to the late Robert Schuller that can serve as a good model for self-love.

Love-triangle-mertonI may be young; I may be old, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be educated; I may be unlettered, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be black; I may be white, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be rich; I may be poor, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be a sinner; I may be a saint, But I am somebody,

For Jesus is my Savior. I am God’s child!

When we know to whose family we belong, we learn to esteem ourselves correctly.

Loving God, neighbor, and ourselves is not something that we perfect all at once. A woman once received a valentine card that said on the cover: “I love you terribly.” Inside were the words “But I’ll improve with practice.” It is not an easy task to be a loving person. Life is busy, filled with frustration, disappoints and exhaustion. In the midst of everything, we are often called to love the unlovable. While wading through such confusion we can discover the love triangle that points to loving God, self, and others – thus we find the secret of a fulfilling life on earth and a foretaste of the life to come.

Love-triangle


PRAYER

Lord, is difficult necessary that we learn of love from you. You created us out of love and you sustain us with love. You ask us to complete the triangle of love that will make us whole. This day, help me to love you, my neighbor and myself with a love that can only come from you. I cherish that love and seek it from you.

Amen


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