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Chicken or egg

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mark 12:28-32

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

"Well said, teacher," the man replied.

Jesus answers the teacher's question and adds the "Golden Rule" as a bonus. He must think the two commandments are nearly equal in importance.

So of course I should think the same way, but it's not easy. My wife Margaret knows from her teaching experience that when a child hears the same thing from three sources, he's much more likely to believe it. And I hear the second commandment from everywhere, but not the first.

God doesn't get his due, no question about that. Not from me, not from many of us. Jesus' words flow from his mouth and out of his experience. I follow him with my talk, then walk a step or two and stop.

For me as a human being, loving and being loved means becoming comfortable with someone, communicating with them and staying committed to them. No difference in loving God: I can learn to be comfortable with Him, communicate with Him, and stay committed to him.

That takes time and focus. I find that difficult to maintain with even one other person. Putting that effort into my relationship with God isn't something I do every day. And I don't find many models for that life around me. Mostly what I do, and hear others do, is talk about it.

When he loves me, God surely follows his own directions, given in 1 Corinthians 13: "Love is patient, love is kind. It keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Thank you, Lord.

Without returning this love God has for me I stand little chance of consistently loving myself or my neighbor. That's the real tragedy of humanism, that we thoughtlessly turn away from the very Source of our ability to care for each other, love each other, know each other, live sacrificially for each other.

Lord, your love for me makes it possible for me to love you. And loving you makes loving myself and my brothers and sisters ... not just possible, but a joy every morning. I want to turn toward you and stay there.

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