This Is A Test! ~ The Rt. Rev. Jay Van Lieshout, OPI

Mark 12:28-34

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This is a test, this is only a test.  I believe that this warning should have been worn on the chest plates of the priests and scribes that seemingly always had questions, questions with a sinister intent, for Jesus.  Of course, Jesus knew their intent in asking such questions, their intent was clearly inscribed on their hearts; if only we all could have such insight as to read what is on the hearts of those of power and fame.  Yet, there is a litmus test by which we can test the words, actions and underlying intent of those who stand and orate on their bully pulpits: does this speech, does this action, does this person’s heart reflect the two great love commandments?

The directions for applying this litmus test are basic, just ask: 1) does this reflect unconditional love for HaShem and 2) does this reflect altruistic love for other human beings?  While this seems simple, for most of us the stumbling block comes with understanding unconditional and altruistic “love” as preached by Jesus. It is rather strange that in a language which has over 200,000 words, we translate the 3 different Greek words used in the new testament (agapao, phileo, storge, note eros is not used) into the single word: love which has as its origin a word in Sanskrit (lubhyati) meaning “desires”. When Jesus talks about the two great love commandments, the word used in the Greek is agape: the love HaShem has for humanity, like the love a parent has for their children. Hence, we should love HaSham in the same way we are love, and love each other as HaShem loves all of humanity.  Simple, right?

Ok, so it is simple in concept, but in practice what is HaShem’s love really like?  A parent loves their children without condition, fully and altruisticly, always extending goodwill and hope for their future success, a proverbial “be all you can be” and “I am here for you, no matter what, even after death” type of love.  How then, are we to show this same love back to HaShem?  Should we pay lip service by singing praises and glory, taking out billboards declaring HaShem #1, and building magnificent monuments, all the while lying to and cheating others, being lazy, speaking ill of and hurting the weak, craving power an inciting violence towards those who are different?  NO!

Good parents have rules, rules meant to guide our growth and maturation into complete, successful adults which they can be proud of.  Keeping our rooms clean, contributing to the well being of the household, studying, earning good grades, being giving and thoughtful to others, always being honest and being faithful to your beliefs are just a few rules meant to hone us into upright adults. When we stumble or fail, our parents are disappointed and may institute penance which, to the young mind may seem mean or hateful, but are meant to be learning experiences to improve our later success and are done out of unconditional love.  We, as children, seek to show our heartfelt love for our parents by cleaning our rooms, contributing to the well being of the household, studying, earning good grades, being giving, thoughtful and respectful to others, always telling the truth and being faithful to the family beliefs.  And so it is with HaShem’s love and, in return, our love for HaShem; we have commandments, guidelines to make us successful, kind, loving humans and when we are successful, we keep these commands, we pay praise, honor and glory to the delight of HaShem!

And how are we to show this agape love for other humans? Since human are made in the image of the celestial hosts and HaShem is our heavenly Parent, then we must treat each other just as HaShem treats us!  Our actions must be altruistic and always in the best interest of others– regardless of differences in lineage, nationality, politics, belief systems, age, physiological or psychological gender, income and any other worldly trait. We must build each other up, not selfishly tear others down.  Our concerns should focus on their needs and benefit and not solely personal gain. Our words must intentionally speak to “being all you can be” and “I am here for you, no matter what” and our actions need to reflect the agape love written on our hearts and souls by our Lord and Creator. Just as the HaShem so loved humanity as to give us the Son for redemption, and the Son so loved us as to give Himself up for our sins, so too we should give of ourselves for the benefit of others!

All of the sacred laws given to us by the prophets, the secular laws given us by our forefathers and the rules imposed by loving parents all reflect the core values required to become an righteous and loving member of human society. When we love each other as the hosts of heaven love us, we reveal the true face of our heavenly parent in whose image we have been fashioned out of the dust of the stars and when we all act in accordance to HaShem’s plan we create a heavenly kingdom here on this earthly plane.  This way of life is not easy, we are flawed humans and we stumble, misspeak, act selfishly and are prone to succumb to worldly desires.  We are capable of so much altruistic love and yet display so much derision and hate.  HaShem is disappointed at our transgressions but like any loving parent, we called to admit our offenses, make recompense and so are forgiven in hopes of our subsequent growth and future success.  The only way we can achieve such success is to apply the litmus test of the two great agape commandments to all we say and all we do each and every moment of every day.  So to we must use the same litmus test when listening to others and watching their actions, not to issue judgement upon them, but to hold their actions up to them, provide helpful feed back, offer assistance to help them grow and, sadly, to turn our backs on the unrepentant, remove their bully pulpits and allow them to reap the rewards they have sown in their own sins.  We must always ask: “does this show agape love and bring glorious praise for heavenly parent?  Is what I am doing or saying, or what they are doing and saying a reflection of HaShem’s unconditional love for humanity and so for me?  Would this make a loving parent proud of their child or does this bring disappointment and shame?”  If the answer is anything other than a whole hearted: “on my life and soul YES” you must stop, seek forgiveness, wisdom, guidance and then change your actions.  The kingdom of heaven, with its land flowing with milk an honey, is at hand, an inheritance promised to the loving and faithful children of HaShem.  Life is a test, love is a test; can your love pass the litmus test?

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