Jesus said, “The first commandment 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.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Recently, I found myself saying that Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves isn’t working these days. We can’t seem to do it. We cannot seem to love our neighbors and we cannot love ourselves. But Jesus can, and Jesus does. Jesus’ love transforms us and the whole world. Jesus calls us to love as he first loved us.
One of the things that makes love so difficult is fear, and fear abounds these days. I am not sure there is more fear now than in any other era of history, but right now the fear is palpable. Our growing and innumerable fears often come out sideways as anger or grief and find us on edge or experiencing thinner skin and quicker tempers than normal.
So how do we get through this pandemic together? How do we overcome fear, love through disagreement, and love ourselves as God loves us?
We cannot. We cannot by our own strength, but only through Jesus Christ. Jesus can, and Jesus does. Jesus’ love transforms us and the whole world.
Jesus said in John, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) In this new commandment, Jesus reminds us that he loves us no matter what and frees us to love as God loves us: loving our enemies, strangers, neighbors, and ourselves and that God desires abundant life for all – not for a few, but for the whole world.
Jesus really doesn’t give all that many commandments, but it’s important now to remember and abide in this new commandment to love one another just as Christ has loved us. As an act of love, if your health allows, get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Getting fully vaccinated, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, and practicing social distancing aren’t practicing politics. These are ways to practice love for yourself and love for others.
Getting vaccinated is loving the children who cannot yet receive the vaccine. Getting vaccinated is loving those who live with medical complexities that make them vulnerable to viruses. Getting vaccinated is loving yourself by protecting you from hospitalization and death. Vaccination is loving your neighbor.
Love your neighbor by loving our local heroes: Those who work in healthcare as our hospitals are quickly filling; all who provide emergency services and work in pharmacies; all who work as elected officials and work in schools; all who serve the most vulnerable in our communities. These places are all stretched thin by rising COVID cases. Pray for and listen to these neighbors as they deal with this disease and ask people to be vaccinated.
Love your neighbor by loving your congregation’s local heroes. Pastors, deacons, and congregational leaders are doing their best.
They don’t want to wear masks anymore than you do. They don’t want to make these decisions any longer, either. They are weary, and yet they are still called to share the Good News. Please remember to thank them, encourage them, remind them to rest, and pray for them!
It is not too late to get the vaccine. If you have been waiting for FDA approval, Pfizer was approved this week. If you are concerned about the cost, it is free for all over the age of 12. If you are concerned about possible side effects, please see the information at the links that follow. If you need a ride or a childcare provider, please reach out to your congregation and ask for help. If you don’t know where to get the vaccine, please enter your zip code at the link provided below.
Bishop Amy Current
Southeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA
Find a free vaccine site near you
- Go to vaccines.gov
- Text your ZIP code to 438829
- Call 1-800-232-0233