It takes a horrific act by someone who is probably mentally ill to silence the political rhetoric for one day. It takes a federal judge to rule that congregants can move into their worship facility in time for their holy season. It takes the FBI offering a $15,000 reward for information regarding an arson attack on a place of worship. It takes fellow members of her political party speaking out publicly challenging that she’s crossed a line.
Neighbors. Enemies. Frenemies. To Moses and Jesus it didn’t much matter. Both summed up this way:
“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 neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:347-40; Leviticus 19:18).
If we take loving God seriously, we must take loving others seriously. The two are intricately woven together. We can’t say we love God and then turn around and make untrue accusations about someone. If we want the freedom to sit in the house of worship of our choice, then we must allow others to sit in the house of worship of their choice. If we’re going to insist on allowing people the right to carry weapons publicly, then we must accept that there are only horrible consequences … with or without God.
Volumes have been written on this subject. It is a weighty subject and worthy of our study. However, I think chafe against its simplicity. We want to find the religious loopholes that give us an out. We’ll even tweak the laws of the land erecting barriers for others who look or believe differently. We hide behind the deficit as a way to ignore the aging, the disabled, the young, the poor, the mentally ill, education.
Yet, there’s no way to unravel loving God from loving others. It’s messy. It’s hard. And there are lots of times when we just don’t want to do it. The love that God calls us to is based on putting others before ourselves in ways that honor God’s own self-denying love for us. Loving others is an extension of God’s love for us (now you know why there are volumes written on this subject).
It’s not just a matter of being nice and getting along. It involves going beyond our likes and dislikes. It means sticking with individuals and communities even when we’re not getting anything out of it. We look at everyone as a fellow child of God, also deserving our respect and care.
Because Jesus (but Moses was the first to bring all this loving God and neighbor stuff up) so intricately wraps loving God and others together, we really can’t get around love in the real world where people are imperfect and incomplete; people who may be undeserving of our affection or incapable of responding to it; people who will not or can’t love us back. We also must live out our love in a world where people sometimes care about us when we don’t want them to care at all! Like I’ve already said; it’s messy.
Loving God and loving others is a lifelong process that changes as we change. As we’re transformed by God’s love for us, our love for others becomes transforming … for us and the other. Love God. Love others.