How Do We Live Out The Second Greatest Commandment?
This passage sums up all the laws and prophets. It is so simple. If we understood this then our lives would be changed forever... But loving others is not taught well, it is not experienced as we walk daily with others and it is actually counter-cultural. In most churches, families and relationships it is not lived out because we just have not really understood how to live in a place where we can love. By reading Luke 10:27 we see that this loving other MUST come and can only come after we love God with all our being. How do we do this? From my experience, getting to a point where say to God that I cannot do this as it is counter to my sinful nature. I have to say to God, "Show me how to love You!". As I have done this, I have found that as He has been teaching me how to receive His love and start to love God, then this starts to change the way I interact and love others. I have to love God first. If I do not, then I cannot love others as myself. By experiencing God's love I can understand the incredible depth of love He has for me and I can start loving myself because God loves me. Only then can I love others the right way.
In his book "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero talks about how practising the presence of people is a spiritual discipline. When I connect with God and myself I can connect to other people in a healthy way. I learn to bring an awareness of God into every relationship that I have. Relating to others is a powerful spiritual pursuit.
Jesus was able to love others in a deep and profound way because of his practice of connecting with his Father daily. Jean Vanier says that love is "to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves" When we read about the life of Jesus, we find He had an impact on everyone he met as he listened to and paid attention to everyone God put in front of him. In the same way, through our contemplative time with God, we can be prayerfully present to people and reveal their beauty. We can show them how God sees them. This can be done when we ask God to reveal the beauty in me. The religious leaders in Jesus' day knew the scriptures, fasted, prayed, tithed and did every religious thing, but never delighted in people. Jesus was different in that he practised the presence of people as an outflowing of his daily practising the presence of God. Because of this, He could love others as he loved himself.
When we are immature, we see the world only through our eyes. We are at the centre of the universe. This narcissistic tenancy appears to be a default position of the human condition. Our growth as followers of Jesus is to move from narcissism to love and humility. When we mature we are able to have people around us who have different thoughts, feelings and act differently towards the world than I do and I am OK. And they are OK as well. When we can discover the "otherness" of our spouse, children, boss and friends and see them as separate, unique human beings, without losing yourself, is a huge breakthrough in emotional maturity.
I-I Relationships and I-thou Relationships
Martin Buber was a great Jewish Theologian and in 1923 he wrote a book called "I and Thou". He said that we start of in life with I - It relationships. In most of our human relationships, we lose sight of others as separate from us and therefore treat them as objects (It). People to us are means to an end. We use people like we use cars and toothbrushes. We treat people like an "it" when we give people jobs to do without saying hello and affirming them as people. It occurs when people do not fit into my plans and see that my way is right. We treat them as being wrong when they do not see the world in the 'right' way which is my way. CS Lewis described hell as not hot but freezing cold. It is a place where people are living in isolation from one another because they cannot get along. This I - it relationship causes us to not get along.
The alternative to living this I-it relationship is being in an I - Thou relationship. In this relationship, I recognize that I am made in the image of God and so is everyone else on the face of the earth. Because of this, they become a "Thou" to me and deserve respect. I am called to treat all people with dignity and worth, not as someone I use for my own gain. They have a unique and separate existence apart from me.
When we have an "I - Thou" relationship we are willing to connect with people across our differences. God is glimpsed in our genuine dialogue and in the space in between known as "Sacred Space". This "I - thou" relationship imitates the way God relates to us. Learning to relate to and love others well as emotional adults God's love can be released and His presence can be manifest. This separate between us used to be a place of conflict, but now becomes a place that is special and sacred as we treat them as a "Thou".
Dealing With Conflict.
As God teaches us how to treat others as a "thou" we can start to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions as we consider other people's perspectives. When we are a peacemaker we start by acknowledging we are human beings made in God's image. We desire to live in the truth, even when this means going through conflict. A key verse is Matthew 5:9 where Jesus says "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God". So many of us think this means to be pacifiers and appease all people so no one is upset. We keep the peace by ignoring difficult issues and problems, making sure things remain stable and aren't. We are false peacemakers when we act out of fear and avoid conflict and just appease people.
As we understand the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking we can understand the power of working towards long term peace with others. Peacekeepers have a desire to keep the peace no matter the cost. You even sacrifice what you believe in and what is true to keep the peace. You do not walk in integrity. The view of peacekeeping is short term and to stop conflict now. It can be seen as selfish and brings a short term false peace that in the long term leads to division, hurt and dysfunctional relationships.
Peacemaking is a totally different concept. The goal is long term peace, so if you are a peacemaker you are OK when there is conflict initially, but in the long term what you do will lead to peace. Sometimes it means people walk away, but often it leads to stronger and deeper relationships with others. True peace can never come through pretending what is right and wrong. True peacemakers love God, other and themselves and through this love bring real peace.
If we understand the concept of peacemaking, then we understand that conflict and trouble will be central to our mission. Peacemaking disrupts false peace and causes real and big challenges. Jesus said in
“Perhaps you think I’ve come to spread peace and calm over the earth—but my coming will bring conflict and division, not peace. Because of me,
A son will turn against his father, a daughter her mother and against her mother-in-law. Within your own families, you will find enemies. Matthew 10:34-36
The heart of living in the Kingdom of God is loving people by exposing lies and pretence and replacing this with the truth. This is the mature, loving thing to do. In Matthew 5:3-11 Jesus says that we need to have poverty of spirit, meekness, purity of heart, mercy and that persecution will come to all that follow Him. Working towards true peace by being a peacemaker will bring conflict, but will ultimately end in long term peace. A huge issue with most Christians is an unresolved conflict as we do not know what to do with them. They do not go away but only by bringing in the truth and working through conflict can we have true peace.
When we learn skills in peacemaking we can handle conflict with maturity and love. We can live out our I - thou relationship with others, walk through conflict and have true peace. Peter Scazzero has a course called "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" which teaches you these skills and is a very powerful way of learning how to be a peacemaker through listening and speaking.
I believe if you take the time to do this course it has the potential to change you and then change all relationships around you as you learn to be a peacemaker. Remember, your relationship with God is the foundation for any healthy relationship.