Heart, soul, might
Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, Kan.: Faith is the love and service of God. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to love God with all our “heart, soul and might.” Each person balances them differently, and no two people are the same. Each soul is given its particular task in the world.
Heart: Beware lest you serve other gods of your own making, whether it be your own ego or your pleasure. Serve God’s will according to divine commandments. Soul: Out of love rather than fear, willingly serve the higher purpose to which God calls you, even at the cost of your life. Might: Donate your means to establish God’s kingdom.
God calls us to love God and to pursue justice. God never calls us to destroy, but only to build up; never to take life, but to save it.
A Talmudic story recounts that Rabbi Meir was accosted by robbers, and he wanted to pray for their destruction. His wife, the saintly Bruriah, corrected her brilliant and renowned husband: “Pray for the death of the sin, not the death of the sinners.” The robbers corrected their ways. Only God punishes sinners, not us.
We are called to serve God with love and righteousness as Micah teaches, “What is it that the Lord requires of you? Only to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Everyone is valuable
The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Kansas City, Mo.: I find that as we devote ourselves to reflection upon our faith, the requirements for living our faith become more clear. Christian believers may enter their study with different personalities and spiritual gifts and as a result come up with different emphases, but here are mine. They are simple and quite basic.
When Jesus was asked the question “What is the most important requirement for living right?” he responded, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Neighbors are not just my friends, family and those who live nearby, but those for whom I have a deep distrust and enmity. Jesus called upon his followers to go beyond emotions and reach into a compassionate core that honored others as valuable human beings. That commandment of Jesus answers most of my questions about how I am to live my faith.
In each of life’s encounters I must ask myself, “Am I honoring this person as a valuable human being?” When I respond positively to this question, it handles almost all questions I have about my behavior.
If you desire specifics, it eliminates gossip around the water cooler, racist and sexist jokes, jokes about people’s physical characteristics, bullying and a range of other behaviors.
What if we Christians treated everybody like they were valuable human beings? How would our daily living be different?