Friday, November 2, 2012

Loving God and Neighbor (Mark 12:28-34)

One day a scribe (lawyer, theologian) asks Jesus which commandment is the most important.

Jesus answers, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments greater than these” (12:29-31, New Revised Standard Version).

The first commandment, then, is to love God with abandon. Through these words, Jesus invites us, once again, to wholly commit our mind, will, emotions, and body to God.

To love God, we must know God; to know God, we must read the Bible. That's because the Bible is the one odd book that the one odd god continuously uses to distinguish himself from the very conventional gods of Olympianity. Of course we can read the Bible and get nothing from it. But if we do not read the Bible regularly, then we will unwittingly devote ourselves to the conventional gods.

But this reading of the Bible is not a law to obey or duty to discharge. Jesus invites us to do it as an act of love. When we do it that way, we open our minds and hearts to hear what Jesus might be saying to us today. And what Jesus says to us will always be a bit different than what we are expecting. Consequently, loving God means being willing to set aside our previous understandings, expectations, and plans so that we can go where Jesus is going today.

Jesus also reminds us today to commit ourselves to loving our neighbor; that is, to nurturing and protecting every other human being. Strangely enough, we do that when we commit ourselves to living as radiant witnesses to the one odd god we love. Radiant witnesses share the light of God’s truth, the warmth of God’s love, and the strength of God’s vitality with others unconditionally. So we love God wholly, and others as ourselves, when we shine.

Of course, we may live as the six false gods of our world would have us live: in an obliviously self-centered way. Usually we do. But, through the Bible today, Jesus invites us to ask, “How might I witness most clearly to God in this situation?” The gods would bully and bribe us into asking, “What’s in this for me?” Again, Jesus invites us to ask, “How might I be helpful here?” The gods would justify us asking, “Who here is useful to me?”

Jesus Christ is the truth who sets us free to love God wholly. By doing so, he frees us, again today, to share the light, love, and life of God with others just as he shares it with us.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.