“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” These words from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem are usually read as a romantic expression of love, a Valentine’s Day pronouncement of the sentimental heart to the lover’s beloved.
But what if we read them as a question and response to Christ’s eternal call to love our neighbor with the fervor of people who are so passionately loved first by God?
Love, though often sentimentalized by our society, is actually more attitude and action than feeling, at least in the way Christ call us to love our neighbors, God and self. And it’s grounded in the love that God gives to us every moment of every day.
This is the love that we are called and commanded to try and share with our neighbors, despite the obstacles of finitude and our bondage to sin. The love commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves both empowers and demands we seek the well-being of everyone else, even to the point of denying one’s self to live in holy friendship with all of God’s creation.
Now this love is justice; but this love goes way beyond justice.
Will we fail at this perfect love? Yes. Thank God for grace-filled forgiveness that empowers us to try again and again.
And who are we called to love with this love? Our neighbors. All of our neighbors.
And how do we love these? Let me count the ways…which are too many to name here.
But one easy way, right now in this moment, is to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. This action shows love not only for yourself but also for your neighbor as we work together to stop this thing in its tracks, develop communal immunity, and come closer to fully loving each other.
I know from experience that getting vaccinated can involve a sacrifice – I got my second dose on Monday and it wiped me out to barely functional on Tuesday as the vaccine activated my body to empower itself to face the virus head on. But I’ve recovered – the miracle of the human body and the science that can support it never ceases to amaze me! Thanks be to God!
Getting vaccinated is one of the clearest ways we can express our love for neighbor and ourselves right now. So please get vaccinated. In this, you will truly be blessed and offer God’s blessings to your neighbors!
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod