Embracing the Great Commandment
Scripture: Matthew 22:34-40
The Lament: Neighbors by Gnarls Barkley
Take It Further: “(All) That Is Within” by Terre Lucas
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they called a meeting to discuss how to trap Jesus. Then one of them, a religious scholar, posed this question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus answered him, “‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’ Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:34–36, tpt)
In reading our guiding scripture, the phrase, “that is within you,” stands out. I thought about a story my friend shared with me about her childhood.
As a young girl, my friend recalls her mother bending over her bed and kissing her goodnight. She fell asleep listening to her parents discussing the events of the day before her mother would leave for her third-shift job. Some nights, my friend would awaken in the early morning hours and discover that she was home alone. She walked the halls and peeked in every room before returning to her bed, where she sat, afraid. Somehow she knew her father wasn’t in danger, but she wondered why he wasn’t there and what she would do if someone broke in. She did not understand what could be more important to her father than being there to protect her. Eventually, she’d hear the key turn in the lock, and she’d quickly lay down, pull the covers up around her neck, and pretend to be asleep. Believing his absence had gone undetected, her father came in and went to his room. The next morning, she instinctively knew not to say anything because she didn’t want to make trouble. To this day, she harbors feelings of fear and abandonment. In any group, she is the responsible one.
In today’s lament, a verse from Gnarls Barkley’s song, Neighbors, caught my attention:
From out my window, seems just fine/
But in his mind, again his world is far from kind
If I didn’t know my friend, I wouldn’t suspect her pain.
I’ve heard many sermons on “the enemies within us.” Could those enemies have started as coping mechanisms? Could those coping mechanisms still feel the need to activate at what might now be inappropriate times? If I am called to love my enemies in Christ, what would it look like to view those well-intended, negative attributes as “neighbors-within” rather than enemies? If I am to be merciful to others, is it a stretch to show mercy to the part of me that believes it is protecting me? If God has no shortage of love or compassion for me, cannot I also extend them to myself?
Suddenly those morning pep talks I’ve been too busy to have with any regularity take on a new meaning. Before I go out to spread sunshine to those around me, I’ll start with the neighbor-within.
- I can greet myself: Good morning, Darlin’.
- I can acknowledge God’s truth as I wait for a word from him: God, you say I am your poiema (poem). Thank you. You made this day so that I can rejoice and be glad in it. You equipped me to carry the burdens of another. Well, okay, “Let’s do this!”
- I can put my defenses at ease or alert them that they may be on call in healthy ways today: Fear, you can relax. We’re not going to be on guard for no good reason, today.
- I can plan to be fully present and intentional with the little things: I know I’m going to see that difficult person soon. Please help me to see her as you see her and give me the kind words she may need to hear today.
I see the importance of that conversation with my neighbor-within because power comes from naming things and being intentional. As lovely as it is to greet my neighbors by their names, I also need to become comfortable with God’s loving names for me. In one of the songs from our closing set, we sang: I have to know the name You’ll call me. If building community is the end goal, then I have to know the name God will call me. I’m too empathetic to try to do this on my own. I’ll need to discern God’s will. During this series on neighboring, let’s minister not just to those like my friend who needed care in dark and lonely times, but also to ourselves. Join me in this prayer, during the week: “God, I desire to honor you with every passion of my heart, with all the energy of my being, and with every thought… that is within me.”
We’d love to hear from you. Please share with us below your thoughts and insight. We would love to see Take it Further be a place where as a community we dialog, and together we all take the conversation further.
*Note: If you wish, you can look up this and other Bible passages online at youversion.com
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