BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |
What do you believe? When do you feel most faithful?
We church folks tend to focus on believing and acting in faith that God is working with us according to God’s will. It’s a good practice, to pay attention to what you believe as a Christian, to trust yourself and God in living your life by those beliefs. Faithfulness over time creates a life well-lived, satisfying for you and those you serve in your way. Beliefs and faith in God are so incredibly important, aren’t they?
And yet, we are called, first and foremost, to love.
Marcus Borg, theologian and author of Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, reminded me of the two most important commandments with which God has entrusted each one of us who call ourselves Christians. They are as familiar to you as they are to me, and I’d like to share them with you again here as Jesus shared them with his disciples:
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40
Borg’s last chapter of Convictions focused so beautifully on what it means to love God, how we can do this every day. And, by natural extension, our expression of love for God becomes love in action for other people, and for ourselves.
So, how do you love God?
First, ask yourself how you feel about God.
A little obvious, I know, but love is a feeling, a tangible human feeling that makes you want to spend time with the object of your affection. When you love someone, you may feel a little excited at the thought of unexpectedly seeing him, or you may catch yourself smiling as the thought of her crosses your mind.
So, how do you feel about God? Do you feel happy, delighted knowing God’s presence in your life? Do you light up inside at the thought of catching a glimpse of God in a place you don’t expect? Consider that for a few moments.
Next, ask yourself what you like to do with God when you spend time together.
When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, being together and doing what you enjoy. Borg mentions devotional time, meditation, prayer, singing, reading scripture and retreats as ways we can spend time with God. You may have participated in some or all of these activities with God over the years of your life.
But you may not have thought of them as expressions of your desire to share time with God because you love God and love being with God. You may also have a few great ideas of your own to share about ways you and God spend time together. When you spend time, consciously, with God, you get to know God better and better, which makes love grow.
Last, Borg reminded me that loving God means loving what God loves.
What do you believe God loves? The second commandment tells us: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. God loves your neighbor and God loves you. In Jesus’ teaching, preaching, healing and mentoring of his disciples, God revealed what loving our neighbors, each other, looks like: compassion, freedom and courage, gratitude. All of these are expressions of what God loves.
How do you feel about your neighbors? Do you spend time with them, getting to know them better? Neighbors by another name are simply people with whom you share the planet. People you live next door to, across town, the state, the country, the world from, are all people you have opportunity to love and spend time getting to know better. Learning about other people’s lives is an expression of the love God has for you and me, and for all our neighbors. It is also easier to feel compassion for those with whom you do not agree, but have come to understand.
How do you feel about yourself? How do you express love for yourself? Do you spend time with you? Spending time with yourself is time well-spent, a spiritual practice of honoring the unique creation of God’s love that is your life. When you choose to be with yourself, do what you enjoy doing, you are loving yourself with a freedom and courage built into you by God’s ever-present, creative, powerful love for you.
And, whenever you love your neighbor, whenever you love yourself, you are saying, thank you, God, for loving me.
The brilliant artist, Georgia O’Keefe, known best for the flowers she pained, once said of her success, “In a way, nobody sees a flower, really. It is so small, we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
Loving God takes time too. You may believe you don’t have time, and that God knows your love is real. But neglected love changes things, and before you know it, you have changed too. You’ve lost track of what meant so much to you. Your life is emptied of what mattered to you most. And, you may have forgotten who you are too.
So, how do you feel about God?
The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.
Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: