“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”  32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on, no one dared ask him any more questions.”  (Mark 12:28—34)


            A teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  Jesus, out of the Ten Commandments, summed it up into two parts.  The first is, Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 

            This is very specific.  There is NO other God.  He is the ONLY God.  And he is worthy of my love.  LOVE the Lord your God is where all relationships start.  I do not know how to love others unless my love and affection are to God first.  Interestingly, Jesus didn’t start by saying, LOVE YOURSELF FIRST, then love God and others.  I do not have a problem loving myself.  I love myself.  Everyone loves themselves first.  I love myself with my whole heart, with all of my soul, with all of my mind consumed with thoughts of what to do for myself.  I put all my strength to work and earn because I love myself. 

            So, Jesus is saying, turn the focus away from self and put it on God first.  When I put God first, I will know how to love others, reach out to others, and care for someone other than myself.  I am a selfish being.  God is an unselfish being.  Jesus, in the gospel, also said to learn from him, for he is lowly in heart.  The whole premise of Jesus’ statement is to remind me that I am not God and do not worship myself by loving everything about who I am.  I am not to spend all my energy worshipping myself.   I am not to spend all my time thinking about my importance. 

            Thus, the statement, Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the Lord is one, means I must focus all my LOVE on him and not on me.  When I learn to focus ALL my love on God, I will understand how to love like He does.  Moreover, I will know how much He LOVES and values me. 

            The message of the kingdom of God is always others toward.  God first, and then how I love others is precisely how I love myself.  Again, it is not saying we shouldn’t love ourselves and also we shouldn’t hate ourselves.  Jesus said the way we love others is AS WE LOVE OURSELVES.  As I love myself, now I must love others.  I love God, which will determine how I love others and myself.

            It is not easy to love others.  Some may say it is not easy to love myself as well.  But even though we may have self-hate and other feelings, we still do things for ourselves because we love ourselves.  Some say, well, it is so hard to love other people.  I learned the only way I can love difficult people is to know that it must be difficult for God to love me, yet he chose to do so.  When I choose to love God, I will learn to love others as I love myself. 


            I have a lot to learn about how to love God and others as myself.  I am so far from the ideal of love as Jesus taught here.  I pray that I will continue to love God and others as I love myself and make that a part of my daily journey. Love God and love people sounds easy, but it is challenging practically.  I need God daily.   


            Jesus, please help me to continue to love you and others as I love myself.  I ask that you give me a heart like yours.  I want to love you with all of my mind, my soul, my strength, and especially with my heart.  Teach me your humility so I may love others with whom I share life.  I need you daily, Lord.  Amen!