“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matt. 22:36-40 NIV)
To live into these commandments we must first understand how much God loves us. Many Christians might point to portions of scripture having to do with the acts of redemption and salvation offered on our behalf by Jesus Christ — being sent by His Father into the world (John 3:16) as the epiphany of God walking amongst us, imbuing our humanity with His divinity, His death, resurrection, ascension, and ultimately His promise to come again to take us into the heavenly regions at the consummation of time.
While all of that is true, and I affirm it with my whole heart, I think we must understand that those acts, as well as all of salvation history, is about God’s love for each of us — beginning before creation, continuing today and forever.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born…” (Jeremiah 1:5), and, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” (Ephesians 1:4.)
The act of creation was an act of love. God intended for us to be His children, from the very beginning. To accept that God knew us before the world was created, and that we have been a part of the unfolding plan to bring creation into His closer presence forever, should fill us with awe.
Likewise, to realize and absorb all that God has done, has been doing, and will do, is with each of us in mind, revealing our value in His eyes. When God created all and said, “it is good,” he meant us too, you and me, and because God created us, there is value in us.
As God’s children, we each reflect His image to the world. How does that impact me as an individual? The knowledge that God’s Holy Spirit dwells within me, that I reflect His image, is something I can love about myself, even when it seems I can love little else about me.
To see the reflection of God’s image that is imbued to me, I have only to look at my neighbor who shares that same image. I can love that aspect of their being, just as I love that same part of me, even if I find nothing else good in my sight. I can love them because God has loved me and continues to love me in spite of myself.
I can love my neighbor as myself because God loves me and all that He has made. God has created us, therefore we are worthy of one another’s love. God loves us. He came into the world from the heavenly regions to assure us of that — through Jesus Christ our Lord. Even in our sinfulness, falseness, our brokenness or willful attempts to be unworthy, still God loves us.
Jesus told us, showed us, and shall return to bring us home, but for now we should feel affirmed that we are embraced by the Holy Spirit of our Loving God and we fit into His plan. In fact, we each have our unique place in its unfolding. I just love that about me and I love it for you too.
The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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