Love God, love people
The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, Kansas City, Mo.: In the 22nd chapter of Matthew, a lawyer asked Jesus the question “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus answered him with foundational Scripture: “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. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
These two commandments are based on Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. They were an integral aspect of the culture of Jesus’ time.
The 10th chapter of Luke says, “And who is my neighbor?” This question reflects our human desire to exclude some persons and groups from the circle of love.
It also allows Jesus the opportunity to explain that our neighbor is the person least like us, in this case, the Good Samaritan, the famous parable of love as demonstrated by the least likely person expected to exhibit love to those listening to Jesus. We Christians are to choose those persons or groups from whom we feel most alienated, most different, and then love them just like we love ourselves.
The Wesley Study Bible expands on this theme by declaring that “Caring for a neighbor goes hand in hand with loving God — we can expand our hearts to care for neighbors down the street and around the world.” These Scriptures apply at all times and in every situation. Love God and love people, for God is love.
‘Do what is right’
Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, Kan.: There are many. Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” No matter what your circumstances in life, remember that the one God loves you.
Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” God commands us to be constantly aware of our neighbors’ welfare, in addition to our own.
When we empathize with the pain of the other, when we identify ourselves in the other, then we begin to create the ties that bind our lives in a social covenant, upon which a society can be built that surpasses “survival of the fittest.”
Deuteronomy 6:18: “You shall do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord.” Even when you think that you are acting according to God’s will, check to see that you are not simply slavishly following some dictate without doing what is right. God demands righteous conduct. Sometimes we engross ourselves in the letter of the law and forget the spirit of the law, such as applying God’s compassion.
Micah 6:8: “What is it that the Lord requires of you? Only to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” In all of this, are you congratulating yourself for being God’s servant, and thereby exalting yourself? Or do you recognize that “for this you were created,” and rejoice in fulfilling God’s plan?