Teacher, what commandment in the law is the greatest? Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39
Jesus’ answer is from the heart of Jewish thought and teaching. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, the “Shema” which means “hear;" "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This is the verse that people of the Jewish faith are taught, learn to recite daily and to teach to future generations. So Jesus gives the right theological answer to his questioners. But Jesus does not stop here. Jesus continues on by adding a second command; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus builds a spiritual foundation on three great loves, 1) Love God with all that you are, 2) love those around you, and 3) love yourself.
I personally believe that the third love is the hardest. I can love God, for I am a child of God and part of God’s handiwork. I can love my fellow human beings in all of their diversity, for I share this world and this gift of life with them. But loving myself is tricky and not always easy to do. I don’t see myself as great at anything. I am not a professional athlete, an intellectual genius, a computer designer or even
the greatest friend, husband or father. I always see my need for improvement. I always see my faults. So it is hard to love myself.
However, it is important for us to learn to love ourselves, for it appears that Jesus’ three loves are all inter-related and even inter-dependent. As I love God and receive God’s love, I am then filled to love my neighbor and in turn, love myself. Because God loves me, I love God, and then share that love with my neighbor and myself. I do well to remember that I am God’s handiwork. God made me to love and know him, I love the one who made me, and the circle of love continues as I share that love with others and myself.
I may still be a work in progress. I may still be an unfinished work of art, but I am worthy of love and self-respect. God made me, God loves me and God has given me the ministry of love and reconciliation.
It is my prayer that the three loves of Jesus will be part of the fabric of our faith here at St. Luke. Let us continue to love God, love our neighbor and love our imperfect selves.
Your brother in Christ,