Free to love1
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
- Mark 12:29-31
Jesus was asked to prioritize a commandment. But he did more than that. He plucked out two commandments and showed their greatness and wisdom: love your God and love your neighbor. But he also did more than that.
God is greater than all the commandments. And so is your neighbor. No commandment is greater than your God and your neighbor. That’s why learning to love is so important.
Our temptation in watching this dialogue between Jesus and the teacher of the law is to assume that Jesus just picked a commandment to be, as Sarah Sumner jokes, the “Boss Passage.” That one gets to be in charge over all of the others.
But what if Jesus pushed for a fundamental reorientation to the way we see the world? What if this new way of seeing the world got its light from relationships rather than from obedience to rules?
One the one hand, we’d feel liberated, right? We’d feel the freedom to love freely, to not place conditions or restrictions on our love and acceptance. To warmly welcome everyone wholeheartedly and to offer to others the welcome God offers to us. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
But wouldn’t it be terrible? We’d have to love even the hard to love. We’d have to accept everyone. We’d have to look for opportunities to serve. Before we know it, the stranglehold of the commandments would creep back in and claim our hearts.
Perhaps Jesus can set us free from this, free to love. Karl Barth once described Jesus as “the One who loves in freedom.” He loves not out of duty or obligation. Love just comes out of him because love fills the deepest parts of him.
Ask the Lord today to fill you with love so that love would emerge freely from your heart toward all who you meet today.