In Matthew 22: 34-44, the Pharisees continue their quest to trip up the Divine Savior. This time they ask Him a seemingly innocent question. They want to know what He thinks is the greatest commandment.
Jesus does not go into long explanations as I would be tempted to do. He does not weigh pros and cons of several commandments or try to see things from various points of view.
Instead in His Divine Wisdom and Grace, He answers in perfect simplicity.
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
Through Moses, the Lord condensed the laws of the land to Ten powerful Commandments. Jesus takes this a step further by condensing even these ten into two: Love God first and foremost and Love Your neighbor as yourself.
Then He adds that the whole law and the prophets ride on acts of Love.
In a world dominated by power and ethnicity, the gentle Jesus firmly promotes the emotion and action that take the most strength to implement. Jesus simply tells us to Love. It is the same message we have gotten for generation since He moved on to Heaven. Had we truly followed the command to Love, our world would be vastly different today from the reality we now experience.
Three Types of Idols
We have known for over 2000 years our Lord commands us to Love, yet we have many excuses or justifications for not doing so. Most of our these have to do with pain, whether inflicted or perceived, and our own busyness; however, our we cannot negate our Sovereign's Command to Love.
When we make excuses and fail to love, the root of the problem generally lies in idolotry. Without realizing it, we become sidetracked by idols even those we don't want and don't recognize as such. Idols are anything that robs us of happiness and our ability to spread love and joy. There are three forms of idols that prey upon us, either separately or as a mix. These are typical idols, single mom idols, and the more sinister seductive idols. To truly love in all circumstances as Christ commands, we must confront and eradicate these idols.
Typical idols are exactly what you think of when you consider idols and idolotry. They are modern man's golden calf and are easier to spot in others than they are in ourselves. This is generally true of all idolotry.
Typical idols include things like money, materialism, sex, gambling, and addictive substances. They center around greed, lust, and pride. Modern Christians also have temptations in making technology, social media, air brushed images, and fake lives objects of idolotry. Work and career and status in a place of employment, community, Church, or even family can be idols. Sports, recreation, and even travel can be idols.
Many women see their husbands fall to such idols. Again, it is easier to see this in them than to see our own idols in ourselves. This may result in nagging or depression. When idols become impossible to compete with images on a screen and pornaography or outside seductresses enter into the relationship, many women feel less important, unwanted, and sometimes even abused.
Single Mom Idols
Single mom idols are the result of being cast aside or put down too often. They are the result of fear, insecurity, and a desire to fix what is broken although it is often difficult to put a finger on exactly what that broken thing is. Single moms fall prey to perfectionism and wanting to be seen as having it all together or being able to do as good a job parenting as her two parent household counterparts.
Without knowing it, many single moms go deeper into idolizations they didn't realize they had while Married and that helped contribute to the downfall of the Marriage. While Married, many put husbands aside while kids are being raised. They focus attention on their children and see their children as extensions of themselves. They either hope to correct wrongs in how they were raised or to eliminate the pain of being raised in a high conflict home. They do not realize that by putting kids first, they undermine their relationships with their husbands. Just as importantly, they also put children, who need security and guardrails, not steering wheels and gas pedals, in control. Every good mother puts her child in the best place for the child, not high on a pedestal.
Single moms fall pray to a form of worship over social media, comparisons, and keeping up with the Jonses. The put their home, their appearances, and their busyness at the center of their attention, thus idolizing each.
Finally come the most sinister idols. These are the "Poor Me" idols all single moms face at some point or another.
These idols include emotions like fear, suffering, and unworthiness. They are busyness,the desire to fit in, and the need to show everyone what a good mom you are. Strangely, they idolize Marriage and family and make the search for replacement spouses and homes and, sometimes, even children their god. Conversely, an ex-husband who becomes the topic of every conversation and the focus of waking thoughts obsessively becomes an idol. This is especially true at a time when most single moms want to forget their exes ever existed.
Idols in this form have a root in mistrust and distrust. They cry out our brokenness and our thoughts of being unloved and unlovable. They put sadness in our hearts and on our faces and make it more difficult for others to break through and show us a way out of our bleakness. They form our paths of bitterness, depression, anxiety, despair, and vengeance.
Seductively negative idols seem to keep us warm in our finger pointing and self pity, but when they become more important than joy, outreach, and risk-taking they lead to a path of self-fulfilling afflictions. The seductive idols of suffering make us believe the power of our own powerlessness is greater than the power of loving or being loved.
Love the Life You Live. Love the One in Front of You.
Father Mike Schmitz gave a wonderful homily on this topic this week. He pointed out that so many people fall into the trap of thinking this is not the way life is supposed to be or getting upset becasue life doesn't turn out the way they had planned. Our plans can also be our idols.
To break free from the idolotry of our own plans and ofall other types of idolotry but most importantly the seductive idolotry of negativity, we have to trust in God's ability to Love us and know what is best for us. We must concsiously choose to love the life in front of us more than the life we thought we are owed.
To conquer our most sinister idols must choose to consider what it looks like to love, to be in love, to act in love, to be loved. What do our faces look like when we are loved and loving? What light shines from our eyes? How do the corners of our mouths look? How do we hold our shoulders? How do we greet and approach and welcome those right in front of us?
We simply cannot love as our Lord commanded us to when we unconsciously idolize negativity. We often cannot feel our way out of negativity, we must act our way out of it. We do so by acting in love. We act in love for whoever God has placed in front of us. That may be our children, coworkers, aging parents, friends, and ourselves.
Sometimes the toughest commandment is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. When life beats you down, humbly valuing and loving yourself is hard to do and many well meaning gurus will lead you down the wrong paths. Loving yourself involves stripping away all your idols and leaving yourself exposed and vulnerable. It involves getting raw and real and pushing limits and bravely marching into the wind knowing God's got you and that you will emerge on the other side, not only knowing the power He has placed inside you, but also knowing the incredible super power you have to love unconditionally the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.
Litanies of Humility, of Trust, and of Love
I am adding the Litany of Trust and the Litany of Love here because they have so helped me to learn more about what it means to love and be loved. Print them out and pray them often. Meditate on the aspects that are most challenging for you. Many are challenging for me as well!
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