During a study on the book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, my Pastor asked us to select some words of Jesus to memorize. I chose Mark 12:29-31:
Jesus answered, “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 is no other command greater than these.”
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says everything—all the law and all the words of the prophets—hang on these two commandments.
Are these two commandments the bottom line or a lofty goal?
I accompanied my father to Home Depot very early one morning because there were a few things he wanted to purchase and some lumber he wanted to look at for a project he is working on in the basement. While inside the store, I noticed a handful of male customers who were not wearing masks even though the sign on the entrance stated quite clearly that masks were required.
Feeling very protective of my father, I became very perturbed and said rather loudly to no one in particular but to everyone within hearing distance, “I guess you think you are too macho to wear a mask.” I am afraid I embarrassed my dad.
No one said anything in return and I had no expectation of anyone “picking on” a middle-aged woman or the “old man” with her. Once inside my truck, my father and I had a humorous discussion about my behavior and what we would have done had someone retaliated in some form or fashion.
My intent here is not to make a statement for or against wearing masks, but to explore what Jesus really meant by these commandments.
I wonder if we—or maybe just me–too often take the depth and breadth of this kind of love Jesus calls up to for granted. Do I really understand it? Do I really occupy it? Did my behavior at Home Depot show the bare minimum or the highest regard for “the greatest of these” commands?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I am not afraid of the mess these kinds of questions create in my mind, heart and spirit. I am at peace, because I know God inhabits that spacious disarray with me.
Maybe Jesus knew that these two precepts were the greatest because they would challenge us to question our conditioned beliefs.
Could it be that loving the way Jesus teaches means regularly asking ourselves questions like …
“Why do I believe what I am believing?”
“Why am I feeling, what I am feeling?”
“What does that–belief, idea, or action–say about my thinking”
… in any given situation and circumstance.
As a follower of Christ, I am called “in everything do to others as I would have them do to me; for this is the law and the prophets.”
Everything in this platitude hangs on one tiny two letter word, AS. What a humbling call to remembering—remembering that …
The Lord our God, the Lord is one …
God knows no ‘otherness.’ Clearly it is only humans who incorrectly believe we are alienated or separate from God. We, not God, have imagined the labels and identities that make that which is NOT separate from us separate. Love is the Divine calling to awareness, awakening us to health, healing and wholeness.
Chaim Bentorah interprets the commandment to love this way in his word study “Honor.”
First, I do not believe we are commanded to love God. I believe that the Vav that introduces the words “And thou shalt love” is not a Vav conversive. The word love is in a Qal perfect form. If the preceding Vav had a pathah underneath it, it would be a conversive that is it would convert the perfect into an imperfect. As, I do not see this Vav as a conversive the word love remains in a perfect form or a completed action form.
Thus, it is rendered: “You do love the Lord your God.” In Deuteronomy 30:6 we learn that God will circumcise our hearts so that we will love Him. The word circumcise as described in an earlier study is the word mul which also means to scrape.
God will scrape our hearts, He will scrape that harden shell from our hearts to release the love He has put in there. But He has given us a free will and we can choose to harden our hearts so that that love for Him is never released or awakened.
We either remember until Knowing is all there is, or we don’t.
Rumi says it much more succinctly.
“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.”
May it be so.