Summary: Jesus says that the point of the Bible and the point of life is love. Is it really that simple?
Homily for Retirement Suites by the Lake - July 7, 2007
--This is a message for an ecumenical service at my parent’s retirement community--
"An expert in the law, tested (Jesus) with this question:"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:35-40
Do you ever have people come up to you and tell a really, really long story or give a really, really lengthy explanation about something?
Those who know me know that if I’m given too much detail my eyes start to glaze over and I’ll often ask: “So ...could you just summarize for me?” Then they give me the short version which is the only way they’re likely to get a response from me. Is that a ’guy thing’ or what? Anyway, I know I’m not the only one who prefers the short version.
In our reading today someone approaches Jesus and they decide to test him with a really good question. They take out a huge Bible (Prop: Huge Bible) and they ask Jesus “Of everything in here, which is the absolute most important thing”.
Whenever you have to pare down a whole ton of possibilities into just one or two preferences, what you end up doing is talking about what you really think matters in life.
So Jesus is staring at this Bible (still hold Bible) that’s big enough to choke a moose and he’s asked to state the most important thing written in its pages. A daunting challenge, eh? “Which of the 27,570 verses in the OT is the most important. You have 10 seconds to answer”. You can imagines some game show host asking that kind of question.
Without skipping a beat Jesus replies: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That’s found in Deuteronomy chapter six. He continues: “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”.
So Jesus summarizes all of the OT, all 27, 570 verses by saying that the most important thing we’ll find in the Bible the command to love.
Now that can be a bit surprising if we’ve been used to thinking about this book as a book of rules. A book of do’s and don’ts. There are of course “do’s and don’ts” in the Bible. The ten commandments for example.
But when it comes right down to it, Jesus says that relationships matter the most. Love...matters the most. So much so that Jesus says: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
That’s like saying “What this Book is trying to teach us about life...is that the most important thing is to love...To love your Maker and to love the other people beside yourself that your Maker made”.
Now, how can that be? How can Jesus say that love is what it’s all about? Don’t we need to hear, for instance, that it’s wrong to kill? That it’s wrong to oppress the poor? That stealing and lying and charging excessive interest is wrong?
Yes, we do need to hear that, but if we really, truly get what Jesus means when he says that life is about love, that we only need to love God and each other. If we get that and live that, then of course, we’re not going to do anything that is not loving to anyone else. That’s actually the best definition of the word “Love” that I know of. Behaving in loving ways to another. To love someone is to treat them in a loving way.
There’s a great line from a recent movie called The Last Kiss. The main character has cheated on his fiancé and he goes back to her only to encounter her father.
The main character tells the father what a big stupid mistake he made by cheating and that he really truly only loved his fiancé. The father, who is a gentle, sympathetic man, says this: “What you feel only matters to you, what you do to the people you say you love, that’s what matters– the only thing that counts”.
Often we think of love as an emotion...and of course it is...but love needs to be expressed in real terms in order to make any kind of difference in order to actually BE love.
Love that’s unexpressed is just sentiment. If it stays as just an emotion without finding expression, it doesn’t really accomplish much.
“What you feel only matters to you, what you do to the people you say you love, that’s what matters” That’s remarkably similar in my mind to what Jesus is saying in the passage we’re discussing today.