Weekly Devotion for May 8, 2023

When Jesus was with his disciples before he was arrested, he gave them his advice to guide their future. In John 14:15, Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This seems like such an obvious message, and yet, there are so many different ways we can interpret this.  

The first question to me is: What do we mean by love? We use the word in so many ways. We can love pizza. We can love nature. We love our partner. We can make love. We love our family (and that is complex as well!). We love a sports team, or a movie star, or a food that is special to us or… And, we are invited to love Jesus. Such an odd assortment of loves. 

The second question is: How do we love Jesus? By keeping Jesus’ commandments, he says. And what does that mean? In Mark 12, Jesus is asked by a scribe “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall 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, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31) There it is again and again: Love. Love with everything you are and love everyone. That sounds simple enough, right? Well, maybe?? 

As I read this, Jesus is inviting us to love without distinction, without judgment, without categorizing or distinguishing differences, without qualifications. We are invited to love fully – whole-heartedly, whole-spiritedly, whole-mindedly, whole-strengthedly – love completely. We are invited to love our neighbor (and who is our neighbor? or maybe, who isn’t our neighbor? in other words, love everyone, everywhere in every way possible), and we are expected to love ourselves (not selfishly but rather, simply). Jesus is inviting us to see, to “behold” one another in the same way that God sees and beholds us – with the breath and Spirit of life, with the gift of in-sight which sees the essence of what God created us to be – all our gifts and foibles and silliness and profoundness – God loves. 

This kind of love dances lightly through our lives, infusing us with sparkles of delight and joy. This kind of love is God shining through our hearts and eyes and bringing deeply needed light into the hardest, most challenging times. This kind of love envelopes and cradles us with comfort and hope when we feel overwhelmed with despair. This kind of love breaks our hearts open and flows into the world through our actions of compassion and justice. This kind of love opens the tombs of cruelty, judgment, and death and fulfills the resurrection promise of abundant grace, forgiveness, and renewed life. This kind of love strengthens us and gives us the courage to be God’s people of peace, healing, and wholeness. 

As God’s people of faith: Love Jesus. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. That’s all. That’s enough. 

God of love, we offer our deepest, most faithful selves to you. For your life-sustaining, life-giving love, we give you our gratitude and praise. For the times we ignore or block your love, forgive us, we pray. And for the times your love comes alive in and through us, we praise you and thank you for this greatest gift. As always, we pray in the name of the living and loving Christ. Amen.