A Labor of Love (since it's Labor Day and all)

In the New International Version of the Bible, the phrase "love the Lord your God" occurs thirteen times. "Love your neighbor" occurs ten. Ten times we are told to love ourselves (as our guideline for loving others). The Bible tells us that these are the first and second greatest commandments: to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Scot McKnight calls this "The Jesus Creed." It is the basis of what we live out when we follow Christ.

We've had a weekend of God, self and neighbors. Friday night, as discussed in the post before this, we had over 50 people in our yard as we had a cook-out with families from the boys' school. Saturday evening we got together with our good friends from our old neighborhood and went to an outdoor concert at Lake Harriet (though we didn't expect it to be as cold as it got). Sunday we went to the farmers market, did some biking and hiking in a park, had our last church service in the park for the year and gathered around a bonfire with friends after church. This morning we gathered at another friends' house on the parkway in North Minneapolis to watch the 10k & 5k race that went in front of their place. Several members from church and a friend from school were running in it. So we camped out on the lawn and cheered them on (while sharing some breakfast food). We ate lunch together and hung out (playing a few games of kubb and molkky as well).

 Our text at church on Sunday night was from Romans 13:8-9: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”" I've mentioned before the struggle I have at times in loving myself (as well as others and God). It's not easy. But the more we do it, the better we become.

Pastor Jan said, "In God's love, we become loving; in our loving others, we experience God's love." When we grow in one area (loving self, God or neighbor), we ultimately grow in all areas. I call the the trinity of love. All three areas need to be there. If we're neglecting one side of the love triangle (God, others, self), we're not fully loving any of the other sides. We can't fully love God if we're hating our neighbor. We're not truly loving others if we despise ourselves.

St. Benedict, in his rule of life for monastic living, said to treat the stranger (as well as the one you know) at the door as if they were Christ. Here I often fail. And sometimes I treat Christ as a stranger. And sometimes I treat myself that way, also. But there are times when I love God really well. There are times I love others really well. There are even times I love myself well. These are the times to build upon--and love from.

If I love myself well, I accept who I am. I take care of my needs. I forgive myself for my faults. This is how I should treat my neighbor. If I love God well, I am spending time with him. I am praising Him for who He is. I am doing what He asks of me. This is also how I should treat my neighbor. Inwardly, outwardly and upwardly we are called to love. Jesus (as well as Paul) says that in doing this, we fulfill all the commands of the Bible. So simple--yet so hard at times. But the more we do it, the better we become.

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