What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul
What wondrous love is this, O my soul
What wondrous love is this,
That caused the Lord of bliss
To lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul
To lay aside his crown for my soul
from “What Wondrous Love,” American Folk Hymn
“You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery. But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell.”
If Jesus’ declaration that the whole of the Law hangs on “Love God… and love your neighbor as yourself” wasn’t clear enough, here he provides some startling imagery to underline his point: we are not only responsible for ourselves but also for each other. His descriptions of sacrificing hands and eyes to keep ourselves from abusing or objectifying other people are a graphic way of both empowering and holding us accountable for the care of each other.
In a religious system of performative piety, this language would have been startling — a reasonable response when a cultural norm might have been to adhere to the letter of the law and no more. By mandating the extra mile to his followers, Jesus makes clear that if we are to imitate his love — God’s love — then our love must be self-sacrificing and unconditional.
God, show me my neighbor in the places I wouldn’t think to look for them.
Remind me of your holy call to love and care for others even when I am tired, busy, bored, or distracted.
Stretch the boundaries of my love and shrink the fear or pride that keeps me from connecting to others.
… A legal expert tested him. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Go forth in love.