If You Love Me You’ll Love My Dog
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, put a question, 'Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?' Jesus said, 'You must 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 resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.'” (Matthew 22:34-40)
As a young man, when I first heard the truism, ‘If you love me you’ll love my dog’, I was struck by its clarity, by its ability to condense the essence of friendship into a single sentence. As I have grown in my walk with God, I cannot think of this truism without also thinking of his Great Commandments.
The first is to love God and the second is to love his Children. The second “resembles” the first because, in fulfilling the second, we are fulfilling the first. Both are fundamentally the same action. If we love the Beloved’s Children, then we are loving the Beloved himself, for what we do to the least of his Little Ones, we do to him.
Religion is our way of knowing God and expressing our faith in him. 1John 4:8 says, ‘anyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.’ Jesus frames the Great Commandments of Love by saying that all divinely revealed truth and laws -all religious structures- “hang” on them. The verb hang, as on a string, offers a stunning image: If you cut the string, then religion is disengaged from love …and it falls and crashes into meaningless pieces.
When the Pharisees and Sadducees posed life’s most important question to Jesus -What is demanded of me by God?- they were not seeking Truth but only to trip him up. Instead, Jesus exposes their emptiness. They went to great lengths to present their lives as pious, but their religiosity was devoid of love. They were as empty tombs. Jesus, never the less, offers them the Gift of Truth. We too are offered the Gift which they spurned, that we may drink of his potent for our emptiness.
Jesus gave us the First Great Commandment as the key to Eternal Life, but he was aware of the smallness of our nature, so he gave us the Second to insure it. It is relatively easy to love a God who is Perfect Beauty, but to love his Children who have taken on sin and imperfection is another story. And too, though God is All Desirous, he is yet Spirit. He is abstract, unknowable to our senses, beyond the limitations of our mind. It is for this as well, that we are mercifully given the Second Great Commandment, which allows us to do the impossible -to bring the First into fulfillment. That is, by embracing the Children of God who we can see, we are embracing the heart of our God who we cannot see. In the eyes of God, it is the same action.
It is not unreasonable to say we cannot love God without loving his Children. For certain, we cannot say we love God if we deny love to one of his Children. This is a huge problem for me, as I have a permanent flaw in my character which forever whispers, “Your love belongs to those who deserve it.” This whisper rings true at first, but the real problem is, my smallness wants to define who is deserving, while the vastness of God’s Mercy is calling me to much more. In fact, everyone is deserving of my love -because all have been created by, and therefore are prized by, the God I serve.
My flesh, the Evil One, and the World, all, relentlessly urge me to place conditions on those who deserve my respect, my forgiveness -my love. Because I have accepted God’s Forgiveness and Love, I am forever bound to respect, to forgive, to love His Beloved –to be in the image of he who made me new.
If you love me, you’ll love my dog -who belongs to me because he has stolen my heart. If I love God, then I must love his Children as well –not because they merit my love, but because they are cherished and belong to the God who has saved me.