“Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
How many times do our hearts get divided between what we want and what someone else might want or need? Our desires overshadow everything we do. Think for a second about the great needs around you. What stops you from responding to those needs? Are you convinced that you have a good reason? Or is it just because you don’t want to or you’ve got bigger plans for yourself.
When someone wrongs us why do we seek revenge? We justify ourselves with ideals of justice saying ‘well he deserved that’ or ‘she should learn not to mess with me.’ Why?
Have you ever just wanted to give up on thinking about other people and just live you life as comfortably as possible? If you’re like me you get these feelings all the time but you’re entranced by the bigger plan, the thought of what the world might be like if God’s plan was more important to us than our own.
In the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) there are two great commands “love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and might” (this is the Sh’ma) and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Do these sound familiar? Most Christians would probably say that Jesus came up with these concepts forgetting that he was simply quoting them from the most sacred of scriptures. He quoted them but also did something very new with them. He took the two commands and made them one. When asked “what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus quoted the Sh’ma and then said something profound; “the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”
‘The second is like it?’ What does He mean? I thought that I was supposed to love God more than myself. How is loving someone as myself have anything to do with loving God with all of myself?
“The second is like it.”
If you read “Hear” this post is probably pretty redundant to you but I’ve been thinking about how loving people and loving God are alike and there is one common thread, the call to love God as one person; undivided and to love people as yourself are both completely holistic.
Essentially the call to love God is the call to love holding nothing back; to love with “all.” A holistic love holds nothing back. This seems more profound, at first, than loving as yourself but what if they’re not so different?
What would you hold back from yourself? When you’re thirsty, you drink; all your other desires fold to your need for something to drink. No matter what other plans you have for yourself, no matter how inconvenient it may be for you you’ll hold nothing back to meet your own need.
“The second is like it.”
Loving your neighbor is not something you do when it’s convenient. In fact you’ll find that loving people can sometimes be the most inconvenient thing you do. Whose needs come first? If your plans for yourself become more important than the needs of other people then you’ll never really love. You’ll always be restricted by the bonds of convenience and selfish desire. The Torah calls us to love people regardless of how difficult and how contrary to our everyday procedures it may be. We are called to love beyond the pains and difficulties that come along. We’re called to hold nothing back; to love with an undivided heart and a holistic love everyone in the margins putting their needs before our desires. The reason Jesus is so compelling is because He laid aside His desires and held nothing Back. He loved, with all his heart and all his soul and all his might, not just God but people.
The heart of the Torah is the Sh’ma and Jesus understood that the Sh’ma was not a selfish call from God for people to love him and forget their Neighbor. Jesus understood that if you love God holistically; with all your heart, soul, and mind you’ll love people in the same way. Jesus did not separate these two concepts…