Deuteronomy 6: 1-9
In this passage we are commanded to love one another. This is not a recommendation or piece of wisdom. There is no disclaimer such as “if you feel like it” or a promise of reward such as “if you want others to love you.” This is not a helpful Tips for Living list. In fact, this entire passage is full of command words: hear, love, keep, talk, recite, bind, fix, write. This is about action. This is a call to live in ministry, not just chitchat about it or theorize. LOVE. Not “like,” not “spend time with.” LOVE.
- What does that look like? We are so resistant to being commanded to do things, and yet, if this were not a command, would we take it as seriously? Would we truly understand what Jesus is telling us to do?
- What would your life look like if you reminded yourself with every interaction that you are called to love the individual, regardless of who they are, where they come from? Love, regardless of the quality of your interaction, regardless of your expectations. Love, regardless of your feelings, opinions, and beliefs.
This is a psalm of thanksgiving and the traditional format in a thanksgiving psalm is followed here: personal praises, followed by general praises, then a meditation on God’s justice. This meditation provides comfort for the individual because it rests on the historical evidence of God’s faithfulness to his people. It ends with the promise of God’s commitment to his people forever.
When times are difficult, when things are not going the way I hoped, when I feel that God is not answering my prayer, I unconsciously follow the pattern of this psalm. I start thinking about all that God has blessed me with up to this point in my life, the beauty, the surprises, the moving of mountains that I thought would never shift. And in that new perspective my frustration or disappointment seems less, for if God can move mountains, what is one small task in comparison? If God created the sea and all that is in it, what is my small request? Who am I to doubt God’s power? In these reflections I find great comfort in knowing that God’s promise is forever, there is no time limit, no condition upon which it will change. Never-ending love.
There is a criticism here of the traditional sacrificial offerings; they no longer qualify as a way to redemption. What are the sacrificial offerings in your own life that you keep going back to, that you offer to God as a way of making amends or asking for forgiveness?
Quitting smoking, losing weight, no more gambling,
ceasing use of alcohol or drugs, working less,
better money management, more exercise, marriage counseling,
stopping the practice of various vices
- Are you living as if these changes will buy you God’s forgiveness?
We are called to love, but it is a love in and through Christ, not human love. In his book “Life Together” (HarperOne, 1978), Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that “human love makes an end in itself” while “spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ … because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother.” Our love for others must come through God, for our own personal love will get in the way, it will be too full of humanly desire and agendas. And yet this does not begin with the loving of others through God, it begins with loving God fully – loving God with every essence of our being, with heart, soul, mind and strength.
- Is there someone in your life whom you find disagreeable? What happens when you view them through God, as God’s creation, rather than through your own filter?