(An excerpt from Cultivating Love: Renewal by Dr Ken McGill)
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is replied in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” — Luke 10: 25–28 (TNIV)
As I consider this exchange, I see three very remarkable and life changing “ingredients of healing” posited to us from Jesus, which, if integrated into our lives, will impact both our immediate, “here and now” issues, and possibly yield a long-term, qualitative outcome in our life.
First, in looking at all of our “heart, soul, strength, mind, and loving our neighbor as our self,” I see Jesus affirming that there are Seven Core Areas of our existence, which, if given purposeful and balanced attention, could facilitate change in our lives and in our relationships. In this passage of scripture, Jesus identifies that we are Spiritual, Cognitive, Emotional, Physical/Biological and Sexual beings (these relate to the 1st Greatest Commandment), and that we are Social/Relational and Environmental beings (these relate to the 2nd Greatest Commandment). By identifying these Core parts of who we are, He infers that our total being, all that we are, deserves in-depth and critical attention, if we wish to cultivate any form of qualitative change in our life and in our relationships.
Second, Jesus asks us to “Love” God, Self and Others, especially these Core parts of who we are. To love (“agapao”) means we are to “cherish, honor, favor, respect, accept, relish, prize, esteem and be devoted to” as best as we can, and on a continual basis, these Core parts of our existence. I think His intention is that if we follow His “prescription and process” and allow these descriptors of love (which I also call “ingredients of healing”) to practically and behaviorally impact the 7 Core Areas of who we are, then we position ourselves to experience better outcomes personally, and relationally, throughout our lives and in our relationships.
To carry this point further, I truly think that Jesus wants us to experience healing (Matthew 10:1, 8) in our lives, and developing the ability to appropriately love ourselves and “our neighbors as we love ourselves” may determine if we experience healing or not. Why do I say this? Here are two reasons.
First, the meaning of the word “live” (“Do this and you will live”- Zao) infers that if you do these things, then “you will live as if you are recovering from the illness.” In this passage of scripture, I think Jesus is not so much concerned with the distant future of this man, as opposed to the here and now condition of his life, his heart and probably how he is living his life, and what will bring fruitful and productive outcomes in his life. I think this is the reason He affirms that the compassionate and loving focus on ourselves produces healthy and edifying changes in our life that helps us to live life purposefully one day at a time, and, that we will draw upon this edification and strength in order to experience resilience and to “bounce back” when life knocks us crazy. If we could do this, then perhaps, with the help of God, we could cultivate and experience a little bit of “heaven on Earth,” rather than in the distant future, and quite possibly, this is the strategy that when employed, provides us with experiences that helps us to recover.
Second, in a different passage of scripture (Matthew 10:1, 8), when He encourages His followers to “heal the sick…,” He uses the Greek word Therapon, which translates into our English word Healing. Clinically, it is the Therapon (Therapist) who provides the Therapia (Therapy) and hopefully, the outcome is Therapeuo (Therapeutic). Thankfully, with Jesus, we don’t need a License to be therapeutic and to produce therapeutic and healing outcomes, but we do have to learn how to be therapeutic in order to facilitate healing in our 7 Core Areas. How do we do this practically? Well, digging deeper into the meaning of the word Therapia, it also means that healing is facilitated when any combination of the following characteristics or behaviors are demonstrated: Care, Attention, Help, Service, Ministering to Others, and Ministering to Self. I think Jesus wants us to realize that yes, He is part of the process, but also as we take personal responsibility to deliver these behaviors to ourselves and to others, we participate in, and facilitate healing in our 7 Core Areas.
I find that when I engage in this healthy form of “self-love” (the all forgotten Middle or “1.5 Greatest Commandment” as I like to call it), then I am gifting to myself a Godly process that helps me to live beyond my current and challenging life circumstances, where I not only begin to experience change, healing and personal growth, but I am also learning how to become “skilled at living” or wise (the Greek word Sophia). Practically, this form of spiritual self-exploration helps me to identify what are the critical needs, values, mores, ethics, boundaries, beliefs and behaviors that determine how I wish to live my life. When this occurs, when my God helps me to gain insight to my life, I think the underlying question in this passage is will I make the choices to become committed to developing these values and characteristics in my life and in my relationships? I find when I engage in this spiritual process, then I am learning how to love myself and subsequently, how to love my neighbor as myself, because God has helped me to know myself.
Finally, in an elaboration of the second point, Jesus encourages those in this process to “Live as if we are recovering from an illness,” which means if we are to experience change, healing and growth, we incorporate into our lives all of the “tools” at our disposal to impact the core areas of our existence, to help us to recover from “our illness.” Certainly, we look at the Bible and other tools for spiritual growth, but just as important, we look at how medicine and psychotherapy will impact and yield health to our brain, our body, and our mind. For some, our recovery also requires us to inventory thoughts, feelings, behaviors and experiences that facilitate emotional stability and sexual health. It also includes challenging cognitive distortions, which may have derailed God’s desire for us to live a focused, passionate and empowered life that evidences skills and wise choices. We also examine what personal and relational adjustments need to be made in the social and relational systems that we work, play and live in, and how the changes we implement will position us to begin or continue a process of living a purposeful, meaningful and perhaps renewed life, where we are substantially and qualitatively different people, very different than who we were before we entered this crucible of change.
So there you have it. The insight about this exchange, and the principles in this book are not exhaustive, nor do I think of them as profound, however, it has been my experience (and that of others), who have utilized these written and other “prescribed” interventions, coupled with their desire to see God teach, guide, empower, motivate, lead, comfort, convict and cleanse (change) them, that incremental change, healing and growth does occur in those who wish to experience a renewal in their life and relationships.
After reviewing the 7 Core Areas description on the next page, please review the questions and take some time to reflect on where you need to experience change, balance, development, growth, containment, renewal, etc. in your core areas.
One more thing as you think about cultivating life, recovery and love in these 7 Core Areas or “rows” in your life. Be gentle with yourself and with others in your life, as you can only realistically work in a few of the “rows” of your garden at any given time (just as if you were working in the garden in the backyard of your home). Also, be patient, knowing that the “seeds,” which are the new and fruitful behaviors that you wish for God to produce in your life and in your relationships will take some time to develop and mature. Have faith that the changes that you are planting may take some time to pop through the ground and into each other’s awareness. Finally, make sure that you eliminate any toxic behavior that may compromise your growth, and ask God to richly fertilize your life with empowering spiritual experiences that help you to create optimal change in your life and also in the life of your spouse. Somehow, if these simple prescriptions are implemented in the “ground of your heart” (again, we are from the soil you know), then I am sure you will begin to experience life and living as if you are recovering from the illness. Thanks for allowing me to provide feedback about this passage.
(Author’s Note: This manual, the Seven Core Areas (next page) and any of Dr. McGill’s LightWorks Counseling© materials are also based on the empirically validated Family Psychology paradigm. It is a paradigm rooted in the American Psychological Association’s Division 43 (Family Psychology/Ecological Model), as it recognizes that Individual factors, Interpersonal dynamics and Environmental factors impact the person, and should be considered in treating the whole person, and the systems he or she lives in. These systems that we all live in, (Micro-[Individual], Meso-[Family, School, Religion], Exo-[Community, Culture, Society] and Macrosystems [Global]), and the Family Psychology paradigm, are welcomed in the Christian academic community, as recognition and attention are given to the reciprocal impact of these vital life areas in counseling).