EDITOR’S NOTE: This excerpt is from Steve Daugherty’s book Experiments in Honesty: Meditations on Love, Fear and the Honest to God Naked Truth (Worthy Publishing, 2018). All rights reserved. Used with permission.
When Jesus passed the bread and the cup to his followers and said, “Do this in remembrance of me,” of course he was talking about eating the bread and drinking the cup. But it’s interesting the specific phrasing isn’t “eat this” or “drink this” in remembrance of him. It’s actually, strangely, unspecific.
As if his handing them the bread and the cup, symbols of his self-sacrificial Love, are included in the this.
If you watched someone hand a hundred people money and say to them, “Do this,” would you be surprised if many of them understood it to mean more than receive cash? Would you be surprised if many of them interpreted the “do this” as meaning both giving and receiving money?
Jesus invited his pupils to remember him within the whole scene: a room full of takers — being recalibrated to give more of their Love away — were being given what they needed and being told to perpetuate the giving of it for others.
We consume. We produce. Take. Give. Breathe in. Breathe out. Both. It’s what we are, as endorsed by the Manufacturer.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” asked a scribe who was subtly putting Jesus, a purported rabbi, to the test. Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The entirety of the tradition hangs on Loving God and Loving others. And the quality of this Love of others is measured by nothing other than an awareness of how I like to be Loved. Selfishness isn’t eradicated. It’s the most important tool in my belt, if only I could learn to see it, and then use it, without shame.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered up something that sometimes makes me wonder why our Bibles are so thick, our sermons so long: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Awareness of what I want is necessary to fulfill this. Well calibrated selfishness is assumed, acknowledged, and leveraged. The whole Bible is me knowing what I want, and using that intel to make your life better.
Jesus’s brother James wrote to his dear friends about their new lives and way of living. As he wrote out some course correction about their perpetuation of social hierarchy and relational superficiality, he included, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.”
Paul’s letter to the Romans includes toward the end, “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
The Bible in CliffsNotes: use your selfish awareness to Love others well.
It’s as though Jesus comes to us saying, “You know how you’re pretty sure, most of the time, how you would like things to go? How, when you screw up, you hope your intent will be considered far more than your actions? How you’d like others to talk to you, or not talk about you, when you’re not around? You know how you love it when someone picks up the slack for you and you don’t get the sense that you’re now indebted to them? You know how good it feels, or how good it must feel, to be able to trust others entirely? You know how great it is to find out someone took the time to think through how something might affect you? You know how great it is to be honored, respected, and included irrespective of your performance or lack of it? Okay: Provide all this to other people. Give to others all these things you know you love receiving. In so doing, you will have fulfilled everything the Scripture was getting at.”
The key to Compassion, to being what I am, is my selfishness properly adjusted. A tool to use, not a curse to be lifted. We can’t help but Love, because that’s what we are. But in fear of everything from terrorists to not having a prom date, we have aimed it toward ourselves. Love walks the old lady across the street or steals her purse, depending on its calibration. Once we see things aren’t just generally bad or good, but inward and outward, then we have a real shot at being born again. Not into a world of self, but one of other.
We consume the bread and the wine, and we, to an ever greater but never absolute degree, also mimic the Christ’s giving of those elements. Giving his very self. “Do this.” Perhaps there’s no better way of knowing if you get the point of your human life than to come to minor in consumption and major in provision. Having a day-to-day awareness that the inner tick wants to focus on the self, yet subverting it by using its constant flow of self-interested intel as a way to know how to best understand, serve, and Love the other.
We are born with a great capacity for Compassion. To receive it as creatures who need it. And to give it as creatures who were made to provide it.
If we can just get the dials right. And that’s perhaps a decent prayer for your morning routine:
God, Love, help set my dial. And like a good dad protecting the home’s thermostat, swat my hand if I mess with it. Amen.