And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39, NIV)
If you’re like me, you likely read past this part of scripture. Love, the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. You read the Lord part and skip or at least abbreviate the neighbor part.
The truth is our Christian culture is geared towards ME+GOD not as much geared towards ME+OTHERS. Don’t get me wrong. We want community, we want connection, but we often don’t find it. Why is that?
If we really believe that the second is like it, we have to work through loving others in a bit more of a complex way then I just want to be loved and known.
If prayer is to be transmuted into action, then this Trinitarian faith which informs all our praying must also be manifest in our daily life. Immediately before reciting the Creed in the Eucharistic Liturgy, we say these words: ‘Let us love one another, so that we may with one mind confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided.’ Note the words ‘so that’. A genuine confession of faith in the Triune God can only be made only by those who, after the likeness of the Trinity, show love mutually towards each other. There is an integral connection between our love for one another and our faith in the Trinity: the first is a precondition for the second, and in its turn the second gives full strength and meaning to the first. (The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware)
If one commandment is like the other, it would only make sense that the two are connected. If our relationship with God seems stilted or not as robust as we would hope, maybe a good place to start is our relationships with our neighbors.
Integral to faith is repentance, communion, and fellowship. Repentance is tied to communion and fellowship. A lack of repentance and reconciliation in relationship is wicked.
Have you ever had the friend you had no desire to be around? You know the one who bugs the heck out of you? Maybe instead of excusing our feelings of contempt it would be better to confess them. Better to confess contempt then to begin to mistreat our fellow neighbor.
So much of scripture and the kingdom is opened up when we focus on the neighborly command. Love does no harm to a neighbor. The forgiveness of the servant to those who owe us less than we owe God.
Perhaps it is our relationships with family and friends that tells us more about our faith than our private devotions to the Lord. A public show of faith, even if it is done in private for an audience of one (yourself), does not make one righteous before God.
Self-love is the negation of love. From Descent into Hell by Charles William:
self-love is hell; for, carried to its ultimate conclusion, self-love signifies the end of all joy and meaning. Hell is not other people; hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness.
We are called to reflect the love of the Trinity in our relationships. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, Jesus prayed that we would share in the love and fullness of Life.
If we believe that we are to love God with our heart, mind, strength, and soul then let us also believe that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves.
May the Lord convict and free us to love, repent, forgive, and be in fellowship as much as it is in our power to do so.