Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The Cliff Notes Gospel

In tomorrow's Gospel reading Jesus gives the Cliff Notes version of his whole life's teaching. In answering an expert in Jewish religious law's question, "Which commandment in the law is the greatest commandment?" Jesus says,
"`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 first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Writing about this passage in Christian Century Martha Greene wrote,

Jewish scholars had surveyed the Torah, counted carefully and discovered 613 commandments. Applying all 613 at once was virtually impossible, even if they could be remembered. If one were to hang all of these laws on one nail, what nail would it be? Jesus uses two nails: love of God and love of neighbor. The formula is memorable and its simplicity appealing. It could almost be a motto on the company stationery. Yet I wonder if the result for those repeatedly exposed to these basic tenets of Christianity has been not simplicity, but dilution, or even a "dumbing down"...

We know that loving God is not the same as loving our neighbor. Frankly, loving a neighbor may at times be easier than loving God, just by virtue of the concrete visibility of the neighbor. And neighbors might make fewer demands on us. But the converse is also true. Humanistically oriented Christians assert that love of neighbor is worship, thereby concluding that worship is superfluous. I contend, however, that worship is still our primary expression of our love for God. Calvin said in his Institutes, "Surely the first foundation of righteousness is the worship of God. When this is overthrown, all the remaining parts of righteousness, like pieces of a shattered and fallen building, are mangled and scattered."

On the other hand, worship-without-neighbor-love deletes the logical conclusion of loving God. The foundation of neighbor love is to recognize that, as God's own, we are called to love what God passionately loves. The inseparable unity into which Jesus brings love of God and neighbor has its meaning not in the similarity of God and neighbor, but in the nature of love itself. To love God and neighbor is to enlarge the boundaries of the self so that universalizing love is possible.


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