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Golden rule

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.... Love your neighbour as yourself." Mark 12.30f

Yesterday's Bible readings in church either featured or reflected the Golden Rule. Whether it was Isaiah's warning of the dire consequences of failing to love God and neighbour, or Jesus' insistence that healing a crippled woman was more important than observing spurious Sabbath rules, or the all-age talks in both morning and evening services, all either focused on - or took inspiration from - that essential principle of life.

Most cultures - sacred or secular, of whatever faith - teach the wisdom of reciprocal love. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition it goes back as far as the ministry of Moses, finding expression in the 5th book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy. What struck me yesterday was how Jesus raises the bar. Loving God and neighbour is not simply "tit for tat" or "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours", it involves prioritising the object of the one we aspire to love: by going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, washing one another's feet, tending to our enemies needs (like the Good Samaritan).

Most crucially, these acts of sacrificial kindness are best enabled through prioritising our love for God. This makes sense if we accept that God is love, therefore to love God is to tap into the very source of that quality. On account of the nature of love, which is the nature of God, this cannot be done lightly, presumptuously or arrogantly. We approach God on our knees, recognising that he owes us nothing and we deserve even less. When he responds graciously and generously, as he promises to do, we are transformed through gratitude and delighted to share the unmerited gift.

And so the virtuous cycle continues: We love because God first loved us... (1 John 4.19)



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