Love for God, self, others simply adds up


By Rev. Walter L. Frazier

Guest Columnist

My step-son is taking pre-algebra in the seventh grade, and I recently asked him, “If A is equal to 100, and A is also equal to B, what is B?” He promptly responded by saying, “100!” I then asked him where he might use such a simple solution in life. He said, “I have no idea.” Well, frankly, when I took algebra in high school, I saw no real application of algebra either.

As a counselor and a minister today, I am beginning to realize some benefits of algebra. Let me refer you to the Great Commandment. In brief, it says to love God with all you have. It also says to love your neighbor as yourself. OK, so where is algebra in that? That’s what my step-son asks.

First, let’s not get tripped up by this being a commandment. It’s not a “commandment” per se. Instead, it is actually a statement of fact. Love of God and neighbor (and ourselves) are parts of an algebraic equation: A is equal to B.

The Great Commandment implies God’s love for us. Just ask Noah about unconditional love. Our love for God comes out of God’s love for us. When we limit our ability to receive God’s love, we in turn reduce our love for God. Therefore, love God with your whole being because it is your whole being that is loved by God, unconditionally. Our love for God (A) is equal to our acceptance of God’s love for us (B).

The same equation applies to love of neighbor. According to the commandment, love of neighbor (A) equals love of self (B). In other words, to love my neighbor, I must have love for myself. My love for my neighbor will not exceed the love I have for myself. A is equal to B.

In my counseling practice, I have seen a number of situations where people attempt to love others more than themselves. Under the guise of sacrifice, they attempt to violate the Great Commandment algebra. In the short run, it seems to work, but invariably, in the long run this imbalance results in exhaustion, frustration, disappointment or anger. This only proves the equation stands.

I believe the Great Commandment calls us to focus inwardly. If the equation remains true, our acceptance of God’s love and enhancement of self-love will fulfill the Great Commandment.

Frazier is a licensed professional counselor and deacon in the United Methodist Church.