Whom do you love?
Concern for others has long been a tenet of social justice, even before the term social justice came into existence. In our reading from Exodus this Sunday, Moses is charged with bringing the Law to the people of Israel, a Law that spells out what their interactions with others should look like. Concern for aliens, widows, and children is paramount: If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry… The same holds true for their treatment of all of their neighbors: they are to live as if others in this world matter, because they matter in the eyes of God, the Lord tells Moses. And your relationship with Other has everything to do with your relationship with God.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus condenses four entire chapters of Exodus into two fundamental commandments that ultimately say the very same thing: You shall love the Lord, your God… and your neighbor as yourself. These two laws define all the rest: God demands that we love God and other, both. If you love God with all that you are, you can’t help but love your neighbor as well. If you don’t extend love to your neighbor, then you probably don’t love God entirely. Yes, we should exclaim, as the psalmist does in Psalm 18, I love you, o Lord, my strength, but we must also open our hearts to those around us, our neighbors … all of our neighbors.
The Thessalonians understood this message: their love for God is so utterly grounded in their love for Other that it is recognized everywhere they travel to proclaim the word: they themselves openly declare, Paul says, what sort of reception we had among you. The Thessalonians are living the love Christ brings; they have opened their hearts, and their lives, and that openness is proclaimed throughout the region. Isn’t this precisely what we as Christians are meant to do? To open our own hearts so that we might transform the existence of those around us by bringing the love – and the Word – of God to bear upon others’ lives, and hearts?
Whom do you love enough to transform with the love God has for you?
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.