A while back I got a letter from a Christian woman asking how she could possibly live up to the standard prescribed by Jesus in The Great Commandment. It’s a great question, because it points to the idea that the Great Commandment isn’t as simple a directive as (God knows) so many Christians routinely assume it to be.
The answer to the question of how any of us can live up to the standard set forth by the Great Commandment is that we can’t. None of us ever can or will. You might be able to love God with all your heart, mind and strength for … what … two minutes at a time? Three? Five? A half hour, if you’re, like, a monk? But sooner or later, even a monk gets hungry and has to think about eating, or itches and has to think about scratching, or gets a call on his iPhone, or whatever. And sooner or later something always brings us, too, back to the big, bad world where, after all, our attention is necessary in order for us to live and make our way.
We simply cannot love God all of the time in the kind of all-consuming way prescribed by the Great Commandment. Not if we ever want to, say, order off a menu, or operate heavy machinery. Likewise, none of us is any more capable of consistently loving every person in the world than we are of swimming across the Atlantic ocean. It’s just not going to happen.
God knows that. He knows we can’t ceaselessly love him and/or others with all the passion we possess. God knows-and a great deal better than any of us know it about ourselves-what our capacities are for getting and receiving love.
He knows we’re human.
I think that when it comes to us fulfilling the Great Commandment, what God wants is for us to try. He wants us to consciously and purposefully love him as much and as often as we’re able to, and to be as generous and loving toward our neighbors as much and often as we’re able to.
And when we fail to love God as much as we can, and when we fail to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves, he wants us to ask him to forgive us for that failure.
And why does God want us to ask him for his forgiveness?
Because he wants us to again be filled with the fullness of his love for us.
And that-that cycle-is what living as a Christian is all about.
It’s not really about “fulfilling” the Great Commandment. It’s about knowing and claiming our place in the process of trying to.
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