The Great Commandment

In today’s reading from Mark,  a scribe asks of Jesus, of all the commandments, which is the first? [Mk 12:28-34]

Jesus replies with the great Jewish Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4:

Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh. You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.

Interestingly, Jesus adds an additional component–the mind. And then also adding, that the second commandment is to love your neighbor  as yourself.

He ends by saying, “there is no commandment greater than these.”

We tend, or at least I do, to read over this and just register “love God”. But since Jesus did not just repeat the Shema, something that must have been well-known to any Jew of his time, but added something, it perhaps is wise that we look at it more carefully.

We are commanded to love God in a way unknown in human terms for the most part. There are three ways of loving. There is the love of friend. This is not a casual acquaintance type of “love” but more like that of a life-long friend, someone you would go seriously out of your way for. Some one you share confidences with, someone you are with through thick and thin.

Another type of love is familial. It is the love one has for members of one’s own family, those in the inner circle but those also of the more distant. It can be one’s clan or tribe. We stand up for each other, we would sacrifice our lives in many cases, we would go the last mile. Even when members are deeply flawed, they are “still family.”

The love we think most often of is eros love, the love of human for human. The erotic love that binds partners, that is the basis of family itself, that provides the foundation for  the raising of children. It is romantic, it  is all consuming. It burns like fire. It is raw emotion.

It seems to me that Jesus invites us to all three of these in the Shema  as he revises it. Our heart perhaps is the erotic love, the emotional tie that binds, the familial is the soul, the love that is there simply because of birth, our divine “given”. The love offered to a friend is more cerebral. It is based on logically thought out considerations. We form friendships based on shared interests, and experiences.

We are to think of God as friend, family and lover in a nutshell. And we are told we should bring all our strength of will, passion, and intellectual clarity to that effort.

This weekend, spend time exploring God in these three ways, this Trinity of love. What new insights does it provide?



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 14:59:55

    A “Trinity of love”–how splendid, Sherry! And I will indeed give that much thought this weekend. Thank you for the inspiration (once again)!



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