And 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.
In this gospel passage Jesus tells his disciples that the most important thing for disciples to attend to in this life is who we love and how well we love them.
Yet even if we agree with Jesus that God must be the chief object of our love, something in us feels that this “all” kind of love must be a form of hyperbole. All of our mind? All of our heart? All of our soul? All of our strength? He seems to ask more than we are able to do. Surely, there are things we must think about during an ordinary day that do not redound to the love of God. Surely, there are activities and responsibilities and relationships that require huge portions of our heart, soul, mind, and strength each day, but which do not directly draw us into adoration of the Lord our God.
The list of perfectly reasonable exceptions begin to grow as our minds find new ways to deem this “all” command as poetic language intended to inspire us to greater devotion (all things being relative.) As we begin to seek for a follow-up word of comfort from the Lord, Jesus adds a second command: And love your neighbor as yourself. How dispiriting.
What if Jesus said this second command is “like” the first? What if they are actually related in a deeper way than we have imagined? What if Jesus gave the second commandment knowing we would be prone to exceptions and qualifications? What if by loving our neighbor, we begin to fill in the “all” of the first command?
This would mean the “all” does include the people and experiences that fill up our day to day lives and draws them all into our love for God. By loving others the way Christ commands, we acknowledge our neighbor is a gift from God – created out of God’s infinite love, and deserving of the same love for Him.
As the rich young ruler once asked, who exactly is my neighbor? Jesus’ answer to us is the same as it was to him: “All.” To have enemies regardless of the justification, refuses God’s love with the “all” he commands.
Lord, show us how loving all people helps us reclaim moments lost to busyness, fear, anger, or stress. Show us that these distractions can be recast as tributaries of the same love we have for you. Until Christ is all in all, Amen.