It was Jesus who showed us how to treat other people, neighbors and strangers. It was Jesus who offered healing to the people He met. It was Jesus who confronted those in power who were serving only themselves. It was Jesus who taught what the Old Testament scriptures and the commandments meant. He loved the people He met and they responded by following Him. He took the commandments beyond the literal truths to the real depth of meaning: we are not just to not murder someone; we are to give up our anger at another, our judgments of another, so that we forgive them and purify ourselves (Matthew 5:21-22, 7:1-5). He summed up the 10 Commandments in the Two Great Commandments: “Love the Lord Your God with All your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36, also in Mark and Luke).”
We are to love with God’s kind of inclusive love, not the human kind which loves, but excludes, which embraces some and then judges and denies others. Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I am afraid that we do “love” our neighbors as poorly as we “love” ourselves. In fact, I don’t think we can love at all—either God or neighbors—until we can love ourselves, forgive ourselves for our wrongs and others for what they have done to us. Until we can look at our own lives with the eyes of love and forgiveness and truth, there is no chance that we can love God or others. With God, we would be hiding the unlovable parts of ourselves from Him, not giving Him full entry into our lives. God, of course, knows everything about us anyway! It is only when we can turn our whole lives, our whole selves over to God that we can feel God’s love for us and His forgiveness. For me, it finally took this decision before I could feel God’s love: if God can love and forgive me for who I am, then surely, I can look at myself with love and forgiveness.
When I could love myself, or at least begin the process of looking at myself with the eyes of love, then I could follow God’s suggestions for me wholeheartedly and begin to love Him fully and to let His love and forgiveness flow through me to others that I meet. That’s when I truly began to love God.
The church for so many years and centuries has stressed believing in God, in the Trinity, but it has not placed anywhere near as much emphasis on living as Jesus calls us to live. Looking good on the outside wasn’t what Jesus called us to do. It must be in our whole selves—conscious and unconscious– that we do not murder/slander/judge/be angry at another human being. The same with our greed—we are not to look good on the outside, but be greedy on the inside. Jesus is not about surface stuff at all. He asks that we not hold onto anger or not pay our debts—money or otherwise–or not judge anyone else or not be greedy at all. And these have to do with our conscience, with the depths of ourselves and our commitment to God. There isn’t anything of value in our not murdering, if we don’t also pay attention to the subtler ways we hold onto anger against others.
If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must set aside all that keeps us from loving Jesus and His Father—all the pain and suffering we’ve been through, any influences that would tempt us away from His agenda for us, the narrative that would have us only serving ourselves and so much more. Each and everything that does not serve God must be put on His altar, because only God can heal all these impediments to our serving Him. As each impediment is highlighted for us—by God’s own Spirit—we are to lay each one on the altar and ask for healing and growth in our love of the Holy One. And as we do that faithfully, we will come to feel in our own selves, the differences in how we respond to everyone we meet, the love that is growing
within us, the freedom from the past so that we can live in the present, in the presence of God. Then we are truly living in and expressing the love of God.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest book, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, is now in bookstores and on line. It’s about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need.
Questions to ponder over the week: How well do I love God, myself and others? What parts of myself am I withholding? What impediments to love are within me? What issues are not yet admitted/resolved/forgiven?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who low with their whole selves, who live in the truth about ourselves, God and others, who have surrendered to God all that keeps us from His love.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 1.17.21’s is entitled “Tears Just Flowed.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.