“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
First of all, I’m sorry this reflection is late. I know some of you check this blog out frequently for lectionary reflections, and I appreciate that … you’ve been keeping me honest! So with that in mind, and my sincere apologies, let’s look at last Sunday’s scriptures.
Jesus quotes with all of the ease of being a good Jew the greatest commandments. He has been taught them from his youth, as all Jewish children would have been. (We’ll just let go for now the special knowledge he may have of these based on his divinity…) But the important part is his last sentence: The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. With all the skill of a good rabbi, Jesus sums up the scriptures in one call to action: love of God and love of neighbor.
It’s simple. As we dedicate ourselves to God and one another, we fulfill everything the law and prophets always tried to do. The Gospel, though, gives us the mechanism to really do it: freedom. God always meant for us to be truly free, and that freedom does not equal “license” or lawlessness. It does not equal doing whatever we want or expressing any thought that crosses our minds: our freedom cannot trample the rights and freedoms of others, or we have lost sight of the goal of the greatest commandments.
True freedom is ridding ourselves of the attachments that keep us from loving God and neighbor fully. Everything that holds us back and drags us down must be cut away mercilessly or we cannot love God and neighbor freely. And ironically, when we do not love God and neighbor freely, we are never really free.
The hard part is cutting away the attachments: the relationships that are not healthy; the entertainments that do not edify; the concern for self that does not let us reach out to others; the desire for success that manifests itself in greed. The list can get long, and it can be hard to identify those attachments in our lives. But the Psalmist today gives us the criteria:
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
Whatever takes our eyes off this truth, this praise, this love of God who is our Savior, that must be cut away. Mercilessly.
This is painful, yes. But the payoff is great: true freedom.