My thoughts have been pinging on the phrase “your God.”
More specifically, Matthew 22:37-39 has been on my mind: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. … Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus proclaimed these as the first and second greatest commandments, thus, our need to pay attention.
Admittedly, my thoughts are often erratic, much like the ball in the classic pinball machine with my having no idea or control over their direction or the stops encountered.
Much in these verses is ping worthy – love God, love your neighbor, love yourself – yet “your God” remained the consistent ping.
I wonder if “love your God” is a call to all of humanity, regardless of one’s faith tradition or the name given to one’s God. If so, then loving “your God” is the fertile ground in which loving your neighbors grows and thrives.
A quick review of the world’s five major religions reveals a common, foundational tenet mirroring the command to love your neighbor as yourself:
- Islam: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” – The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith.
- Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty; do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” – Mahabharata 5:1517.
- Buddhism: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Udana-Varga 5.18.
- Christianity: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law of the prophets.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:12.
- Judaism – “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary.” – Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
Another quick review, this time of history from the early crusades forward, reveals that our global societies have sorely failed at loving our neighbors, which might call into question our loving our God – whatever the name – with all our heart, soul and mind.
The first love quite possibly has been, and perhaps continues to be, love of power, control, territory and wealth, resulting in wreaking havoc on our neighbors.
With continued pinging on “your God,” I questioned, who is “your God”? and how did your God come to be your God?
In considering those questions, my thoughts pinged on the title of a book, Religion, an Accident of Birth, published in 2003 by friend and fellow church member Charles R. Hurst, MD (now deceased).
It is a good, insightful read chronicling Hurst’s work, ministry and faith formation from his time as an army doctor during the Vietnam War to numerous ministry excursions into Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Balkan areas of Chechnya, Albania and Kosovo.
Continued pinging on the title concept, religion as an accident of birth, seems to render it invariably true.
Born in India, one would most likely practice the Hindu religion. Born in Europe or the United States, probably Catholic or Protestant Christianity. Born in the Middle East, excluding Israel, most likely Islam. In Israel, chances are Judaism. In Southeast Asia, probably Buddhism.
The geography of one’s birth just may be the primary determining factor in one’s religion.
Amid these thoughts, a passage in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings set off all sorts of pings and flashing lights.
In the scene, Skepsis, the leader of the Therapeutae, a Jewish monastic community, asked Diodora, a healing servant in the Temple of Isis, to remain with them. Diodora responds, “But yours is the God of the Jews. I know nothing of him. It’s Isis I serve.”
Skepsis answers, “We will teach you about our God and you will teach us about yours, and together we’ll find the God that exists behind them.”
So, the final question: In loving our Gods – regardless of the names we give them – with all our hearts, souls and minds, can we not love our neighbors by acknowledging our faith traditions primarily as a variable of birth with some possibility of choice?
Can we love our neighbors by respecting and learning of their Gods and faith traditions, and in doing so “find the God that exists behind them [all]” – the God that proclaims that “loving your neighbor as yourself” is foundational in loving “your God”?
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series at Good Faith Media. If you would like to contribute to the series, please submit your column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Retired after 38 years in education and counseling, the last nine of those as school counselor serving a campus of 650+ third, fourth and fifth graders. When not traveling, she fills her days with community, charitable and civic work, along with occasionally writing for The Tyler Loop and blogging at Pilgrim Seeker Heretic, affirming the sacredness of life and the sacrament of relationships.