Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Love Yourself?

A friend of mine did his first sermon as a lay minister-in-training (did I get that right, Neil?  Close?) on this reading from the book of Matthew.

(Really, sometimes I don't know why these good people hang out with me.  Fear for my children?!  A glimmer of hope?!  Comic relief?!)

Matthew 22:36-40
New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

  1. Matthew 22:37 Deut. 6:5
  2. Matthew 22:39 Lev. 19:18

Instead of going over the first part, loving the Lord your God, he was interested in defining neighbour.

Since this was at the same time that I was having trouble accepting having to leave our old school, accepting social inequity, learning that there are differences in people and their choices, I found it particulary disturbing. 

I was finding my tribe and realising that a caste system exists in the USA and Australia just as much as it does in India. 

I felt like I'd just crapped on my neighbours by choosing to leave the neighbourhood.

Except then I thought about the Brooklyn Bridge.

If your neighbour jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, I don't think Jesus meant that you should follow.  He didn't mean that you have to accept your neighbour's poor choices in order to love them unconditionally, as another human being, as a spark of the same divinity that resides in yourself.

He didn't mean that you have to love yourself less because your neighbour is having trouble loving himself.

I think that Jesus meant you have to love yourself.  And to do that you have to know yourself.

Do you switch neighbourhoods?  Of course you do.  You owe it to yourself and your children to surround yourself with people who are good for you.  But that's not what Jesus meant by neighbour.

The secret is in the second part being like the first.  Loving your neighbour is like loving yourself.  Which is like loving God.

It is the secret of Namaste.  (Bowing to the divinity that resides in all of us.)

The trick is in accepting that life is imperfect, that people are imperfect, that inequalities will exist, that life is unfair and that bad things happen.  That some people make really bad choices that affect their ability to contribute productively to society or to their own personal growth.  That some people won't grow.  Or grow up. 

You can love someone unconditionally as a human being without approving of the choices they have made in this lifetime.  (Or you should try anyway.)

I have been feeling guilty about making the right choices and for taking advantage of the opportunities given to me.  I feel bad that I can do so well when others do so poorly.

This is only because I still have problems accepting this imperfect life.

I still don't get that it isn't all up to me to set things right, solve social injustice, end world hunger, poverty and war, find a cure for cancer, and malaria.  And AIDS.  (Oh sorry.  Bill Gates has a couple of those on his plate too!)

Loving my neighbour as myself means accepting that God can handle all of this without me.

That "no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  (Max Ehrmann, Desiderata) 

That all of this is okay, just the way it is.  Child abuse.  Illiteracy.  Rape.  Drug addiction.  Alcoholism.

It's okay.

"Whether or not it is clear to you ."   (Max Ehrmann, Desiderata)

I still have a problem with accepting that it is okay to excel while others are doing so poorly.

On the other hand, how am I loving God, or myself, or even my neighbour, any better by choosing not to excel when I can?

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here."  (Max Ehrmann, Desiderata)

Do I have a right to do well when others aren't?

I have a right to be where I am, Max tells me.

Maybe the trickiest part of loving my neighbour as myself is loving myself enough to agree.

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