Welcome the stranger; care for those unable to care for themselves – the vulnerable in our society; be generous to the poor; provide shelter for the homeless. (Exodus 22)
‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. (Matthew 22:37)
‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39)
For those who believe, it’s a very simple commission: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22.37). This is the whole. Nothing else matters. Everything else flows from this first principle.
But what of those who don’t believe in a higher being? And what of those whose belief in God differ? What becomes our common meeting ground?
For those who believe in an all powerful, omnipotent God, its rules and consequences. For those who believe in an angry, vengeful God, it’s in judgement and punishment. For those whose God is money, riches and possessions. And for those without belief, whatever is dearest to them.
But for those who believe in a compassionate, life-giving God, its love and forgiveness that gives the belief form.
It’s why Jesus in today’s Gospel followed the first precept with the second. To establish a common meeting place. The Christian God is a God of love, and our communal meeting place is not in the belief, but in a practical response of love, which is universal. All are my neighbour, especially the poorest, the weakest, the most vulnerable, the stranger in our midst and the outsider (Exodus 22). It’s what unites religions and cultures the world over – the universal insight that love of God demands a loving response to the world in general, and humanity in particular.
Buddhism: “Do not offend others as you would not want to be offended.”
Islam: “None of you are true believers until you love for your brother and sister what you love for yourself.”
Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.”
Confucianism: “Tzu-kung asked, ‘Is there one word which can serve as the guiding principle for conduct throughout life?’ Confucius said, ‘It is the word altruism (shu). Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.’”
Sikhism: “I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.”
Taoism: “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss.”
Jainism: “One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.”
Christianity is really a very simple religion. It can be summed up in one word: “Love”