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  • Reverend James Squire

My Faith In Action

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Photo by Hugo Fergusson

I have experienced God and my Lord in my life in very direct ways.. I turn to the very core concept of religion itself and one of its important tenets: relationships are an integral part of religious experience. A central tenet of Judaism and Christianity is the Shema: Jesus is asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 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: 28-31)

The word “religion” comes from the Latin word, ligare, which means “to connect”. Religion describes our relationship or connection to God, to others, and to self. This is why there is an emphasis on relationships in this book. This emphasis is noted also because ethical decisions never occur in a vacuum. All decisions affect others in some way, shape, or form.

In the Gospel of John, this central point of the Shema is underscored with Jesus’ words, “This is my commandment. That you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

I believe our faith in God comes about in at least two ways, the way we treat self and the way we treat others. Many years ago I was taught that if you want to know the deepest truth about a person, ask them what they would like you to pray for. For me prayer can occur in the most unusual settings such as staring out into a sunset over the Chesapeake Bay or having a run where I see the nature of God in ways that I had not experienced before. Prayer is central to corporate worship. This is the first part of the Shema, “Love God!”, meaning to love God with a sense of gratitude for all aspects of life.

The second part of the Shema is very important as well, “Love your neighbor.” We experience significant physical pain in the world, such as illness, hunger, and war along with all the many forms of injustice and pain that often seem to be wrought by others on us. Jean Paul Sartre, the founder of modern existentialism, in his play, No Exit, writes, “Hell is the others!” (Sartre 1955) A lot of our pain is emotional in nature and caused by our relationships with others. But just as relationships can create pain, they can also create a sense of heaven coming into our lives.

I believe healthy relationships are critical to happiness, joy, and the spiritual life. Relationships are contracts we make with others. Since the dynamics of these contracts assist our spirituality--Love God! Love your neighbor--they are also a covenant. Covenants have two parts. You need to be living both parts of the Shema not just one or the other. Loving God and loving others are the central ingredients to Christianity and Judaism.

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