Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’e 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’f 40The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (from Matthew 22).
You may be familiar with these words of Jesus in reply to a question the religious conservatives of his day had posed. Which is the greatest commandment?
There were plenty of commandments to choose from in what amounted to the Hebrew Bible of that time. Still are in our own, same, Old Testament in today’s Christianity. And commandments have a way of informing our human judgment of “others” whom we dislike in our world, regardless of the times and places in which we live. Our human temptation is to cherry-pick which commandments are the greatest. To weaponize the commandments we tend to keep but others don’t.
Jesus was invited by the conservatives of his own faith tradition to do just that. To cherry-pick the commandments in hopes he might choose their own favorites to use as weapons against their own enemies. In hopes he might choose “remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy.” That one was their favorite “gotcha” to use against their enemies, the liberals of their own day. Or, for that matter, to use against Jesus himself, who was starting to…….dare we say it?.........sound like one of those liberals himself. (Especially when he espouses the work of those liberal prophets of old right alongside that of Moses himself.)
Jesus brought up the two commandments having to do with love for God, and for neighbor as self. Commandments that had no real weaponizing effect. Commandments that took the edge off our human worries. Commandments that placed all faith in love and all doubt in fear. Commandments that simply couldn’t be used to gain control over others, God included.
Love not fear.
Love of God, not fear of God. Love of neighbor, not fear of neighbor. And, for that matter, love of self and not fear of somehow finding ourselves judged guilty and punished.
Jesus may as well have been saying faith in influence with our enemies, not in control over them.
Which is where things got really touchy with the religious conservatives of His time. And they still do with those of our own time.
Losing control over other people, places, and things brings about our greatest human fear. Even as our greatest fears bring about our desire for control over these same “others.” An endless loop. Self-fulfilling prophecy writ large!
This is the stuff that has always frightened conservatives where liberals were concerned. Bleeding heart liberals believe in that touchy-feely kind of “influence with” that is “too good to be true,” and won’t ever work with our enemies. Our faith is in fearful control, not loving influence. In a God who is “in control over” and not merely one “in influence with.” In a God who “determines” our fates, not who “informs” our choices. A God who reigns above us, not who suffers with us. A God who overpowers us, not who empowers us.
Faith in fear, doubt in love. Faith in control’s power over, not in influence’s empowerment of.
Which brings us to America’s Second Amendment (to our Constitution of 1887) within our own Bill of Rights.
And some other questions.
Are we Christian conservatives of America today very different from the Jewish conservatives of Palestine? Anxious to cherry-pick and weaponize our Bill of Rights as if in self-defense against those liberals like Jesus who still go in for that touchy-feely loving influence with our neighbors a world away, a southern border away, or even a door away? Stuff that’s too soft. Too “relational.” Too good to be true. Too doubtful. Too “bleeding heart.” Too liberal.
Or too Jesus?
And so we’re really caught in the middle, aren’t we, between faith in love / doubt in fear and the more conservative or populist notion of faith in fear / doubt in love? Love thy neighbor as thyself vs. Love thy neighbor, but use thy guns to love thyself more than thy neighbor whom thy shall fear.
Caught in the middle between God’s Second Commandment and America’s Second Amendment. And we can’t have it both ways.
Jesus also said, "No one can have two bosses. He will hate the one and love the other. Or he will listen to the one and work against the other. You cannot have both God and riches as your boss at the same time." -- Matthew 6:24.