I wanted to know what The Most Important thing was, which of all God’s words was the greatest? What it was most crucial to follow.
Jesus summed it all up in two phrases for me, Love God with everything you have got and love your neighbour as yourself.
So ‘all’ I have got to do is love God, my neighbour and myself.
It sounds so easy put like that, I could not disagree.
But actually, when you think about it, that is the whole world, it encapsulates everyone.
Love of God is at the root, in that is the love for the rest. If my focus is on loving God, love for everyone else should flow through that.
If I can love myself, in the knowledge of the depths of God’s love for me, I should be able to dwell in that love, soak in it, so that love overflows in me onto all those around me.
All bound together in a circle of love, mutual support and fellowship.
Lord, may I learn to truly love you, that you are the most important thing in my life, and I may give you all that I am.
I come to let you love me. To stay here, as your arms stretch out and hold me tight – comforting, healing, warming, letting me know that I am known and loved.
May I allow your love to sink deep into me. And from there, may I be at the point of being able to love others, from the security of knowing what I mean to you.
The Greatest Commandment
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
The Question about David’s Son
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
This is the transcript for my post for today on our circuit ‘Going Deeper’ daily posts.
I’m just going to go straight in to the reading today. It is ‘one of those’ passages in the bible. You might have a knee jerk reaction to it, but we need to look further than that, beyond the first sentence. Anyway, here goes.
Wives and Husbands
3 In the same way you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe. It will not be necessary for you to say a word, 2 because they will see how pure and reverent your conduct is. 3 You should not use outward aids to make yourselves beautiful, such as the way you fix your hair, or the jewelry you put on, or the dresses you wear. 4 Instead, your beauty should consist of your true inner self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of the greatest value in God’s sight. 5 For the devout women of the past who placed their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful by submitting themselves to their husbands. 6 Sarah was like that; she obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are now her daughters if you do good and are not afraid of anything.
7 In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are more delicate than you. Treat them with respect, because they also will receive, together with you, God’s gift of life. Do this so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.
Suffering for Doing Right
8 To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. 9 Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. 10 As the scripture says,
“If you want to enjoy life and wish to see good times, you must keep from speaking evil and stop telling lies. 11 You must turn away from evil and do good; you must strive for peace with all your heart. 12 For the Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their prayers; but he opposes those who do evil.”
“Use today’s set reading from the Prayer Handbook” the Superintendents said.
Nothing controversial to see here – at all! When I had stopped laughing, I did look more closely.
Perhaps the most important part are the first four words, “in the same way”. Before we get our chunter on, we ought to find out to what Peter is alluding. This is not the start of the letter, but part way through. We are not reading this passage in isolation; it follows on from the chapter before. He has been giving instructions to different people about how to live out their Christian faith. This is new to all of them, they are all working it out, and so Peter is sharing some helpful reflections on how that might be, based on how Jesus lived, and died.
So, in the same way as what? He is pointing to Christ’s suffering, all that he gave for us, and that being our model for Christian living, especially amongst those that do not have that faith.
It would probably surprise most people to know that when Paul and I married 35 years ago, I opted to have the “honour and obey” vows in the service. It was an option, but I deliberately chose to do that. I think I shocked most people at the time doing that! Perhaps it is especially because I am, and always have been known to be a ‘Strong Yorkshire Woman’ that it seemed important to me to make that point, that we were in this together, it was not, and is not my show.
The rationale Peter gives behind this instruction is that it is about your conduct, how you live. This passage is actually written in the context of a believing woman being married to a non-Christian husband. She is not to use her faith as an excuse to pull against the marriage or her husband, but by quietly getting on with it, working together, she will bear testimony to that faith. Living in the kind of way that makes someone else ask questions about why you behave as you do and seeing God in that, is a powerful lifestyle.
The next part becomes is equally as contentious – don’t use adornments to make yourself beautiful. I do not live in the world of false everything and the latest high fashions, but I do like to look nice. Something we have all stressed about during lockdown is our hair, and I have certainly been glad to get mine mowed and back into some sort of tidiness, if different.
I take this advice to pertain to not wasting time, energy and resources on all manner of ‘improvements’ when your life is not right. We know the saying that true beauty comes from within, and I think this is what Peter is getting at. True beauty comes from doing the right thing, living a good way – God’s way, sharing, loving, and seeking to bless others.
The advice does eventually turn to men, and how they should live as husbands. In the time it was written, this would have been quite revolutionary news to men. They would have been used to treating women as possessions, required to do their bidding. But if a woman is being asked to obey her husband, he has to be acting the right way for that to be safe and sensible.
So man are asked to treat their wives with respect. Life is a joint effort with God.
The whole premise of this is then widened out much further – love one another, be kind and humble, don’t pay back evil with evil, but with a blessing. All a very sound sensible way to live for all of society – essential if you are a Christian.
So from anger, frustration, despair at how outdated this advice is, perhaps we have managed to glean some important things for human, Christ based, living for today. And that can never do us any harm!
Lord, you ask us to love, to live beautiful lives, to live your way. To live together in mutual respect.
Teach me to learn to live your ways, to be a blessing with those I live amongst, may my behaviour point always to you.
Today’s song suggestion: Love God Love People by Danny Gokey
I am continuing to reflect on why I am finding coming out of lockdown and shielding much harder that I found being in it.
When we were all locked down, there was a huge element of ‘all being in it together’. No one could go anywhere (that was not medical or food shopping), because there was nowhere else to go. That fact that my illness and disability means that I could not go out made little difference, because no one could. I was no longer ‘missing out’ on anything, because everyone was. There was nothing really to miss out on. Though I realise it must have been far more frustrating for the able bodied with energy to burn and social contacts and hobbies to maintain.
(I am acutely aware that many people did have to continue going to work to keep what was needed in society going, who could not choose, or be instructed to stay at home. They had to go out, risked their lives doing so – and I am incredibly grateful to them.)
There was much talk at the time among the chronically ill community about how now everyone knew what it was like for us being stuck at home pretty much all day every day, relying only on the internet for social interaction. Hopefully that part of the experience that will be remembered.
Then as lockdown began to ease, places began to open, possibilities were there again. And along with the dilemmas coming out of shielding brought, were the knock backs.
As other people begin to return to A Normal, came the whole new realisation that I was left out again, remembering how isolated life with chronic illness can be. Things are happening that I cannot go to, however much I want to. In the online support that had grown, even if just in text messages or social media posts, people are missing because they have gone to find their new normal. I absolutely do not begrudge them that, they have lives to be getting on with and I would be if I could, society has to get back to some way of functioning – but it is beginning to make a massive difference to those of us ‘left behind’.
It is a reminder, if I needed it, of what I am excluded from, what I miss, what I can no longer do. None of this is helped by the fact that my health has deteriorated, unrelated to lockdown, but concurrent with it. I cannot even begin to return to my normal, because my normal is a different, lower, level now. But even if I could, the risks of coronavirus feels too risky for some of what I might have been able to enjoy before, like a trip to a coffee shop, unless I can sit outside away from a crowd.
So, all power to those who are finding a way to get back to some kind of life. I genuinely am delighted, but please don’t forget those of us whose lifestyle and restrictions you had a glimpse of for a few months. We are not your responsibility, and you should not feel bad for living what life you can again.
But perhaps there are some lessons that have been learned that can be carried onwards:
remember something of what it was like to be stuck at home with nowhere to go
remember the connections you made and don’t leave them behind,
remember all those useful tools you have discovered that enable people to connect with what is happening from wherever they are and continue to use them with those still locked at home.
Meanwhile, I have to find again, the value and worth of my restricted life, outside of what everyone else is, or is not, doing. And I am very grateful to all those who are a part of my world and the life that they can get on and live.