They said that Christianity is a simple religion. Today, we hear about how simple our faith is. Jesus has laid down for us only two commandments, a definite summary of all the commandments in the Old Testament, which we can memorize and live our lives with. He has laid the complete definition of religion.
First, religion consists in loving God. The verse which Jesus quotes is Deuteronomy 6,5, which is part of the Shema, the basic and essential creed of Judaism, the sentence which every Jewish service opens, and the first text which every Jewish child should memorize. It means that to God we give our total love, a love which dominates all of ourselves, a total commitment of life to God.
Second, Jesus quotes comes from Leviticus 19, 18. Our love for God must issue in love for people. But it should be noted in which order the commandments come: it is the love of God first, and the love of people second. Our love of people flows from its source: our love for God. Why should we love people? Because God loves us, that we become lovable and worthy to be loved. The biblical teaching about people is that we are not a collection of chemical elements, or a part of the animal species, but that we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1, 26-27).
How do we love God and persons? Let me first begin with ourselves: What kind of love do you want? I have a story, The Kind of Love I Want:
It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 a.m., when an elderly gentleman in his 80s arrived to have sutures (stitches) removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9 a.m. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to be able to see him.
I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.
While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation I asked him if he had a doctor’s appointment that morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, and that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I then inquired about her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease.
As I finished dressing his wound, I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. I was surprised and asked him, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?” He smiled as he patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.”
I had to hold back tears as he left. I had goose bumps and thought, “That is the kind of love I want in my life.”
If a love like this — when people love us for everything that we are, even if we forget and neglect them — is the kind of love that we want, then that is the kind of love we give of others. If they forget to thank you for the things you have done for them, love them anyway. Because that is the same with God. Our God is a faithful lover: even if we forget and neglect him, the Lord continues to love us anyway. Because, like the husband, it doesn’t matter that she forgets, what matters is that he knows her.