Relationships are hard work. Family relationships are the hardest of all. The religious leaders asked Yeshua (Jesus) to state the greatest commandment. Yeshua replied, “‘Sh’ma Yisra’el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad [Hear, O Isra’el, the Lord our God, the Lord is one], and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your understanding and with all your strength.”, adding, “You are to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31 The Complete Jewish Bible)
Loving God is the easier of the two. We choose to love God or not; there isn’t a lot of middle ground. God is intangible. Some choose to acknowledge the evidence of God in the creation, others do not. Those who choose to love God can rail against Him, shake their fists at heaven while God remains silent, knowing, in the end, God’s love is steadfast, sure, unchanging.
People are tangible, relationships with them less sure, less steadfast, and ever-changing. And still, Yeshua said to love our neighbors as ourselves. But I am right and my neighbor is wrong, we say. Too often our righteous indignation rises to the surface when we believe another has wronged us, blocking all avenues for reconciliation, listening, or compromise. It is more important to be right than to listen, more important to be right and stand alone than to reconcile. It is more important to be right than to find areas of compromise. This is not love.
Love your neighbor as yourselves, Yeshua said. How can we be expected to love our neighbors if we cannot love ourselves? When we cannot extend grace to ourselves, we won’t extend grace to others. When we are harsh with ourselves, we will be harsh with others. When we are unforgiving with ourselves, we will be unforgiving toward others.
Loving God is easy, we either do or we don’t. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is where the rubber meets the road. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is evidence of loving God. The religious leaders in Yeshua’s day said they loved God, said they followed the mitzvah to love the Lord their God with all their strength. After all, they tithed, attended synagogue as required, met the letter of the law. The four words Yeshua added to the commandment to love God with all our hearts made all the difference. Love your neighbor as yourself? Do you…..?