In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us how to prioritize our love in life, both in regards to him and those around us. Love has been twisted in the world for many years now. Instead of true love we often find a “use and abuse” mindset. This use and abuse is not only of the physical nature, but also the emotional and spiritual nature (and the lasting effects of it on the world are quite harsh).
Use and Abuse of God
For the sake of going in the same order of the laws as Jesus did, let’s first focus on
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
I have fallen guilty, and it is likely you have as well, viewing God as a big vending machine. We go to Him when we want something or are in desperate need, but besides that we’re a distant stranger. It can be easy to view God as a “tool” in our life that we use to get what we want because we know how much He loves us and wants to provide for us. When you add this with the fact we don’t physically see Him, it can lead us into a mindset of use and abuse.
Our faith reminds us over and over again of God’s infinite and personal love for each of us. This love is a gift to be cherished and valued - not one that we only embrace when we need it. However, many of us haven’t taken the time to consider what love is owed back to God. Just as the Gospel says, we are to Love Him with our entire selves. We can do this in our devotion, obedience, and faithfulness. This means that we do not come to God with expectations, but with peaceful surrender. This peaceful surrender can be intimidating, but produces a profound love for our God through the trust and dependency that we are forced to practice.
Use and Abuse of Others
The second commandment that Jesus says is of the utmost importance is,
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
When hearing this commandment it is always a little annoying to me. Not because I don’t love others, but because society has conditioned us to look out for ourselves at all costs. This idea can manifest itself in many ways. In summary, it comes down to whether or not we see others in our lives as objects or as our brother or sister in Christ. The obvious example of the objectification is the hook up culture that is present today that embraces the use and abuse mindset. However, this objectification happens in work, in our families, and many other places. We can probably all think of a time where we were extra nice to someone, either in work, school, or at home, to get something we wanted out of them. Although this may seem innocent, it is rooted in the idea that they are valuable to us purely on what they offer. This is a hard mindset to shake, but we can find hope in deliverance by challenging these thoughts when they arise. We must come to terms that we are all equally loved by God and that He doesn’t have favorites. If this is true we must love His creation in the same way we love ourselves because that is how He loves. We can love God better when we strive to appreciate, respect, and love His creation in the way He does.
The Opposite of the Laws of Love
We have all either said or heard the phrase, “I’m just looking out for number one.” This mindset is flawed yet has sadly become the way our minds are wired. This leads me to the opposite of these laws of love: selfishness. This is not to mean we shouldn’t love ourselves and care for ourselves because we must do this also. This is a call to come to peace with wanting equal pleasure and happiness for all of those around us.
Let us end with the wise words of JP2 as he sums up today’s theme of truly loving God, others, and ourselves beautifully with:
"A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use."