Summary: An informal exposition of Jesus' teaching on loving God and loving our neighbour.
This is a short homily for a Tuesday night gathering called The Feast, at The Yonge Street Mission
What’s a hobby or pastime of yours? Can you name one thing that you really, really enjoy. You really like a lot?
What do you love the most, more than anything on the planet? Love is a strange word, actually, in the English language. We love our Tim Hortons. We love our Maple leafs, maybe. We love our video games, or our TV shows or movies.
What's goofy, of course, is that we apply this big, important, deep word: “Love”, to things that are, when you think about it, kinda trivial and in the big scheme of things, not really all that unimportant. My apologies to Leafs fans.
But what if we take that strange word-love, and acknowledge that it's a big, important word. And then we apply it to things that are suitably big and important.
Let's read from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, verses 37-40.
That last sentence is pretty big. Jesus says that all the law and the prophets - really most of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, hang on what Jesus says in the first couple of sentences.
That means that the foundation of all those books of the Bible, everything they teach, is love - specifically loving God and loving people.
I’m a simple guy. Give me a new piece of technology, a smart phone or a computer or anything new, frankly, and I don’t want to know every last detail about how the thing works. I don’t want to study the manual for a month before I can use the thing. I don't have enough space in my brain for all of that.
I just want someone to show me how to use the thing. How to make it go. I remember the first time I used an internet browser, I could type in what I was looking for but, I say with some embarrassment now, I didn’t know how to make it go to where I wanted it to go.
Took me 15 minutes to figure out I needed to hit ‘enter’, that very first time. I’m not proud of that.
Here’s Jesus takes a massive amount of material - the first five books of the Old Testament - just under 80,000 words, and all of the writings of the prophets - at least another 80,000 words - at least 160,000 words and shrinks them down into about 48 words in the passage that was just read. Cool, eh?
Those 48 words are a lot easier to handle that 160,000 words.
And those words say something really, really important. They say something about what it really means to love.
Jesus is saying that The best way to live the best kind of life, is to do two things: The first is to truly love God. Not just with our heads, trying to fill it with information about God. Not just with our hearts, in a strictly emotional way that doesn't connect with our brain.
But with everything that we are: heart, soul and mind. That leaves nothing out. No area of our lives is not touched by the love of God. No area of our lives is excluded from loving God.
That's a challenge, for sure. But that's what Jesus says is a critical key to living the best kind of life.
But actually, that is not enough. It's not just us and God. It's not just me and Jesus. It's actually you and me.
If I'm going to live the best kind of life, I need to love you as I love myself. The word used there is AGAPAO. It means to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.
And it’s the same word exactly that Jesus uses to describe us loving God. Cool, eh? We welcome God into our lives. We accept His invitation to living life with God through Jesus.
We grow to love Him with everything in us. And at the same time we grow to love people and treat them the same way we want to be treated.
We want to be respected. We want dignity. We want to be appreciated and cared for. That’s good. Jesus says the way to live, really live, is to do exactly that with our neighbour, who is, actually...who? Everyone.
Loving God might be easier than loving people.
C. S. Lewis once said: "it is easier to be enthusiastic about humanity with a capital "H" than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, … exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive. Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular."
That’s true, but God wants us to love others in particular. He wants us to have the good lives and good feelings and great relationships that come from treating people well, loving them as we love ourselves (sometimes it’s hard to love ourselves, but that’s another discussion.