“[Jesus] said to him, ‘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.’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NRSV)
Loving our neighbors in an increasingly digitally connected world is challenging. It’s difficult due to the one-dimensional nature of communicating through a computer program or app. I think we’ve all learned the importance of face-to-face interaction with one another throughout the stages and phases of this pandemic. Facetime and Zoom are wholly inadequate because nothing can match sharing the same physical space with others. When we are together, we can see facial expressions, hear vocal intonations and flections, and feel the spirit and energy of the person with whom we are talking. God designed us to live in a community with one another where we are fully present with others—including our physical presence. This point is driven home through the Incarnation, with God sending his Son in bodily form to show us his authentic and perfect nature. God knew we needed to see him face-to-face.
A lawyer asked Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest. Jesus quoted the Torah stating the “first greatest” commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. But there is a “second greatest” commandment just like it, and it says we should love our neighbors as ourselves. So, as Christians, our first responsibility is to love God with everything we’ve got. But then, part of refining our love for God is sharing God’s love with others. In connecting these two commandments, Jesus implies that the quality of our relationships determines our ability to live for God faithfully. It’s not just our relationship with God that matters, but all our relationships are important. We can envision this as an infinity loop (∞) in which loving God is at one pole and loving our neighbor is at the other. Like a figure-eight racetrack, we keep hitting the curve where we love God that propels us back across toward the curve of loving neighbor, and it just keeps going back-and-forth.
Last Sunday, I began a series on helping us focus on loving our neighbors. After a season of social distancing and isolating, our church can lead a movement of safely reconnecting with the people who live closest to us and sharing the love of God with them. Maybe you already know your neighbors well or maybe not at all; however, God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves is a call to get to know those who are near us. If you missed last Sunday’s introductory message on neighboring, you can go to our website (www.fumcflo.org) and click on the “Watch Livestream” link to view the worship service and sermon. I’ll continue the series over the next two weeks to explore how to serve God more faithfully as we love our neighbors.