I'm a total rule-follower.
Growing up, I was the goody-goody who used my manners, who never once got detention, who trembled inside and fought back tears at even the slightest hint of a reprimand. I nursed guilt and regret for every errant word or deed that slipped through the cracks. I avoided confrontation at all costs (and still do); I did my best to uphold expectations and act as I "should." My friends, my teachers, and the Army especially just loved me for it.
But for the most part, my motivation came from a place of fear. Fear of consequences, fear of what people might think of me, fear that I might not be regarded as a "good" person.
Today's Gospel, though, speaks of commandments founded on love, not fear. Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength. He doesn't say "do good things and don't mess up so God will like you better." He doesn't say "follow the rules out of guilt or a sense of obligation." No, Jesus instructs us to LOVE God recklessly in every way possible with literally everything we have. Because He knows that if we make our first priority love, only positive actions can be born from it.
Love is the very counter to evil, and when that all-consuming love that Jesus describes becomes our motivation, following the rules and loving our neighbor and living our faith will flow naturally. We won't be trapped in a struggle to be perfect out of guilt or obligation or rote obedience to the law. We will be free to live in the perfection of God's law in a way that feeds our souls and makes us shine.
Loving God with our whole being allows us to live full, rich, lives as He always intended; it creates a reality where our God becomes our truest friend and closest companion, where His commandments are desireable, and our uncontainable love for Him makes even the heaviest burdens lighter.
Today, let's free ourselves from the weight of others' standards or the fear that we might disappoint Him. Let's allow our response to life today spring from a place of love—pure, all-consuming love—for our Creator.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.