I so enjoy when God speaks to us in themes. Between our Bible Study class this morning, the sermon in church, and then a few other things happening this week, God has been speaking to me about loving others. Here are just a few thoughts…
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – Deut 6:4-5 The Shema is the central prayer of the Jewish prayerbook. It is prayed at least twice daily. It is often the first verses that a child learns and it is traditional to be said as one’s last words.
In the Book of Matthew, when Jesus is asked by the Pharisees (who wanted to trap him) which is the greatest commandment in the Law, it is from the Shema that Jesus draws his answer. “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.” But then Jesus doesn’t stop there. He adds: “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Jesus tells us that on these two commands are based the entire rest of the laws. In my Business Law & Ethics class I’m taking, I read this week in my textbook (of all places) about how the 10 commandments, which have shaped so much of our society’s ethics, can be summed up in this way. The first tablet of the 10 commandments really speak to loving God, the second to loving/relating to others. These are really lynchpin verses. If we can follow these two commands, we are good to go, so to speak. This is the ruler against which everything else is measured. Definitely easier said than done…
At the end of his earthly ministry Jesus takes it another step and offers his disciples one more command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) We, as Christ-followers, ought to be known for our love for other people. That is how others are supposed to characterize us. We often do such a terrible job at living up to that though.
John, the disciple that Jesus was probably closest to, in his letter 1 John says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21) John tells us that if we claim to love God but do not love others than we are a flat out liar. Pretty severe, but true. Can you love God without loving other people? The answer seems to be a resounding no. The two go hand in hand. They are inseparable.
In the Bible, love does not always mean warm, fuzzy feelings. In the Bible, love is often more of an action; it is service. It is a choice that we consciously make to do good for others, to serve them, to help each other out in our daily lives.
Some people don’t see that Jesus loves them until they see that you and I love them. This whole concept really redefines what it means to be a community, to be family in the eyes of God.
So what should this look like, lived out in our every day lives – the concept of loving others as Christ loves us? And how hard is it to really achieve?