One of my children’s favorite television programs was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. For thirty minutes each weekday, Mr. Rogers invited us into his imaginary neighborhood, and my family loved to visit there.
When I was home, I enjoyed watching with my children. Mister Rogers welcomed all and made his viewers, his “neighbors,” feel accepted and safe. Today’s verses focus on how we treat our neighbors, which is central to Jesus’ teaching. We can understand much of Deuteronomy’s law by looking through the prism of the Second Testament.
In Matthew 22:36-39, a lawyer asks Jesus, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus says that it’s to love God with all of ourselves. The second is like it: to love neighbors as we love ourselves.
Love God. What drives us to steal, bear false witness and covet as Deuteronomy forbids? We want to fill our emptiness. We see what others have and think more stuff will bring us joy. We do what God forbids because we don’t realize that what we need most is a relationship with God.
Love neighbor. The world is increasingly diverse. What capacity do we have to love people of a different faith? A different ethnicity? How open are we to the marginalized and misunderstood? What will increase our love for those who do not look, think, or live like us?
Love ourselves. Could this be the hardest commandment? We’re not talking about narcissism or prideful love here. We’re talking about accepting God’s love for us. Not because anyone is perfect or good enough, but because God’s grace is big enough to envelope us. God loves our unique selves. How would believing that change our lives?
Who do you have difficulty loving because their ideas or lifestyles differ from yours? Ask God to help you take a first step in loving someone you don’t fully understand or agree with.
God, help us know that we won’t find the joy we desire until we know your love for us. Help us grow in that love, becoming more like Christ. Amen.