Imagine visiting the doctor with multiple complaints. Your chest feels tight and your breath is short; your head is thick, focus fleeting and thinking slow; your reflexes are off, coordination awkward, movement erratic and aimless. After describing these symptoms, the doc nods and quickly jots a one-word prescription on a pad and hands it to you. As usual, it’s nearly impossible to read what the doc wrote. You look at it one way, and then turn it over the other way. Gradually, you begin to figure out what it says, but, if you’re right, you are puzzled. (You even wonder if the confusion is another symptom!) Because on the pad, it appears to say, “Love!”
The story of Jesus stresses that the medicine we need is love. Like a one-word script, Jesus says, “Love!” If you doubt this, let me recall that in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke we read similar accounts in the ministry of Jesus that raise and answer the question, “What is the greatest commandment in Israel’s law?” All three accounts give the same identical answer: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:29–31 NRSV).
In Matthew’s version, we learn that such love is greater than all the laws and commands of God (see Matthew 22:38–40). In Mark’s version, we read that this love is of greater urgency than all the sacrifices and offerings prescribed by God for the people of God in their history (see Mark 12:32–34). And, in Luke’s gospel, we are amazed to read that this love turns out to be the way to enter and experience “life eternal” (see Luke 10:25–28). If you consider all of these claims for love, the message is that all our legitimate duties or responsibilities before God, our transgressions and sins that violate them, along with their death-bringing consequences, find their remedy or cure in “love!”
Maybe this raises a question or two for you. Here is a list of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).
Question: What is the greatest command, word or instruction from God?
Answer: Love. Love for God with your all. Heart, head, hands, all of you — love God.
Question: Can this really be true, that love is the medicine we need?
Answer: Yes, such love cures every form of law-breaking, counters all sins for which sacrifices are offered, and cultivates capacity for God-like living. Love, and love alone, restores the human design and destiny God has had in mind from the very beginning.
Question: Is that all?
Answer: Almost, but not quite. There is a second dose of love that follows the first. It is: love others also, as you love your own self, the new self that is taking shape since you’ve begun the love-therapy.
Question: What prognosis can we expect?
Answer: Great question! Loving God with all of your heart will fill your life with light to see and understand what and where the good, true and beautiful are within you, your world, and other people. Affection for others will follow, and then will grow into intense desire for all to experience the goodness of God as you have. Over time, you become aware that God and you experience a common regard and eager longing for every person’s best.
Loving God with all your head fuels your imagination to perceive what people and circumstances can be and not just what they are, floods your thinking with ideas and strategies for contributing to better futures for them, and forms responses to others that work with new-creation power.
Loving God with both hands mobilizes you to do things that express godly affection for others in your world such that holy imagining and human flourishing come together.
Loving God in this fulsome way leads to Divine-human collaboration that “midwifes” new creation. As this active labor yields to full delivery, the healing of persons and things and the whole world approaches.
Back in the doc’s office, you remain skeptical. Isn’t there a catch? Aren’t the ills and maladies plaguing the world more complex? Could this love accomplish so much? Well, the doc assures, there have been numerous trials documented over the years that show love healing broken hearts, overcoming relational barriers, opening people’s eyes to see solutions (and not just problems), creating understanding, inviting friendships, exposing wrongs, making things right, setting people free, giving others opportunities, and many other encouraging signs. Remarkably, he continued, such things have often begun in a single person’s heart. Perhaps a person like you!
Bishop David Kendall is an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference who was first elected to the office of Free Methodist bishop in 2005. He is the author of “God’s Call to Be Like Jesus.”