written by Guy Hewitt
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and…your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt 22:37-40
I want to speak about love today but before I do, I want to talk about doors. I know it sounds strange but humour me. Picture a traditional door: car door, front door, bedroom or bathroom door, or even a cabinet door, it doesn’t matter. I want you to focus on the door and specifically on the hinges – the one at the top and at the bottom. Keep those two hinges in focus for a few moments – are the hinges made of aluminium, or brass, or steel? Please keep the door and hinges in mind, we will come back to them.
Now, let’s talk about love. According to John Lennon All you need is love, and Captain and Tennille asserted Love will keep us together. However, there are more authoritative sources: 1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. The verses ends with a caution, Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry agrees that love is the way. In his new book Love is the Way, he draws on his own life experiences to show that when love is under threat – whether by poverty, racism, violence, injustice or the abuse of power – that same love has the power to penetrate the storm of uncertainty and shine through. Love is all you need.
But do we really understand love? People spent so much time on social media focused on their likes. You probably can quickly list some dislikes: unpleasant people, poor service, middle-seats on a place, being stuck in traffic, tax audits; and you may even be able to list things you hate. But can you easily list things you love? What do you love about today, about your friends and family, about your home, your work, your faith, your life?
On the matter of love, 1 Corinthians 13 is a popular passage for weddings. 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But that notion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Consider the great love stories: Romeo and Juliet, Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and The Thorn Birds. Nearly all ended in anguish.
This isn’t born out in reality either. Those whom God joined together, let no one put asunder. Divorces are on the increase; almost one in every two marriages fail and many turn ugly with once- loving couples slinging mud at each other. Many divorces are is the result of selfishness on the part of one or the other or both parties. All to often, when one party makes a mistake, the other compounds it by rather that addressing the issue, tuning into the ‘it’s over’ zone.
First and foremost, marriage should be a spiritual relationship. Marriage works best when two people are connected through and to God. When you sideline the spiritual dimension, you ignore the One who created marriage and often the One alone who can keep it going.
Johann Sebastian Bach famously wrote the letters “JJ” at the top of the page of each new composition. The letters stood for a Latin phrase Jesus Juva, which means, “Jesus, help me.” God doesn’t give us an impossible list of ‘to-dos’ then say, ‘go, do it’ but rather offers to be our guide on life’s journey.
My favourite Bible verse that captures all the law and prophets is 1 John 4:16 God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. Today we heard, the second [commandment] is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ As we approach the upcoming elections with all the vitriol and enmity, the love of neighbour seems a difficult and remote concern, but it shouldn’t.
In Matthew 22:15, just before today’s Gospel, our Lord famously dealt with paying of taxes with his answer “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” To understanding the context, during the Roman occupation, different groups of Jews had different strategies to restore Israel to its former glory. The Pharisees responded by Torah obedience and ritual purity. The Sadducees and the Herodians respond to Rome through collaboration. The Essenes responded by withdrawing. The Zealots responded through armed rebellion. The challenge brought our Lord over paying taxes was to determine, “Whose side are you on?”
Our Lord’s answer was not one of non-involvement but of non-violent revolution through an undivided loyalty to the kingdom of God. Giving to God what is God’s and loving our neighbours as ourselves is a unique kind of politics – ‘God politics’ – that uses the tool of love to remake the world asking us to see God’s image in our neighbours and our enemies.
It contemporises Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, [there is no longer black or white], there is no longer male and female, [there is no longer republican or democrat]; for all are one in Christ Jesus.
As part of the non-violent protest training during the Civil Rights movement, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., composed a set of practices, which included, “Remember, the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not just victory. Remember, always walk and talk in a manner of love, for God is love.” And the thing he emphasised most was, “Before you march, before you protest, before you do anything, meditate on the life and the teachings of Jesus.”
Last Sunday, Bishop Curry’s sermon, referencing the friendship between late Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, spoke to the power of love to transcend political opposition and disagreements. He noted that despite serious ideological divides and constitutional battles, the justices bonded through shared loves of opera and travel. RIP. All you need is love; love will keep us together.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and…your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. This was not just radical because of its decree to love but also because up to that time Jews had to adhere to 613 commandments. Our Lord distilled them down to two: love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Love is all you need.
Right! Back to the door with two hinges. Just as the two hinges are pivots to open any door, these two commandments are the pivots that open the door to eternal life. So every time you open any door, consider the two hinges and remember the two commands to love on which hang all the law and prophets, and also your salvation. May they know we are Christians by our love and may it lead to eternal life.
The Rev Guy Hewitt is a Parish Priest at St James Episcopal Church in Hollywood FL.