“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
This commandment is nothing for people of faith through the millennia. Here, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” That text was central to the Jewish liturgy and to life itself and precedes to 10 commandments given to the Israelites in both Deuteronomy and Exodus.
Jesus adds a second commandment in Matthew: “to love our neighbors as ourselves”. We certainly need this commandment especially in the last year we’ve endured where mud-slinging and hatred of neighbor and other has been at a devastating all-time high.
The challenge in Jesus’ second commandment is far more difficult that it appears. The commandment is simply to ‘love your neighbor’. It is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
Herein lies the rub. There is a causal relationship between self-love and our ability to love others. It is impossible to be kind and loving to others, especially in tense situations if we are unable to do that with ourselves. The more harsh, judgmental and unkind we are with ourselves, the more we will transfer that to others, especially those who we do not know and/or understand. Self-love, at its root, is where the deep work of loving others must begin. The genesis of that journey to greater self-love is acknowledging our flaws and our sins to God, where we are open and vulnerable not to God’s wrath but the tenderness from which God’s forgiveness comes. On this first day of lent, Ash Wednesday, I encourage us all to come together for our Ash Wednesday Worship where we will all be able to share and show our desire for forgiveness and renewal by imposing ashes on ourselves and others, in a live Zoom meeting format.
Many of you are familiar with the Serenity prayer written by Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s. Here’s the prayer in its original form:
“Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”