NOT much introduction is needed for this week’s Lectionary. It’s all about love for God and love for neighbor. Whether I explore this through Jesus’ conversation with the legal expert or through Ruth’s commitment to Naomi, the message remains the same: if I am seeking life, I must go by the way of love.
The two themes that come together in this week’s readings are the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, and the protection and prosperity that is enjoyed by those who follow God’s laws. In Ruth’s story, it is her love for Naomi that cements their relationship and ensures that they are both, in a sense, protected as they face the tough journey back to Naomi’s home.
The message of the Lectionary, then, is that in obedience to God’s commandments I find a life of goodness and I am protected from much of the evil and brokenness of our world. This is not in a “reward for good behavior” sense, but in the simple sense that God’s commands point us to the way that life works best both for the individual and for the collective. And, of course, all of God’s commands can be summarized in the simple, but difficult, calling to love God and neighbor.
So many of the world’s problems ultimately stem from a lack of love: economic crises as a result of greed and stinginess; war and conflict as a result of hatred and exalting the needs and agendas of the self and one’s particular group. In our culture of ‘ me first”, personal autonomy our social structures break down because we simply forget the skill to love and hold people together.
In every life and every community we know the pain of our inadequate love. Where is this pain felt most sharply in your community today? Do the rich ignore the poor who live right beside them? Are families and marriages falling apart through carelessness and neglect.
The paradox is that, when I begin to truly love, and start to put the needs of others before my own, my own needs are more easily and fully satisfied. Learning to love really is the best way to discover the abundant life that Jesus offers.
The Rev. Isaias Ginson is priest of The Episcopal Church. He is currently priest in charge of the Episcopal church of St. Margaret’s in Plainview, NY.