Summary: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law an
Theme: Love of neighbour
Text: Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thess. 1:5-10; Matt. 22:34-40
Jesus encountered opposition from the people we would least expect to oppose Him. He was opposed of all people by the religious leadership of the Jews. His critics were always trying to trap Him without success. In today’s Scripture reading they again tried to trap Him with the question, “what is the greatest commandment?” This appeared an easy question but was a difficult one because the religious teachers of Jesus’ day had made the truths of the Old Testament into no less than 613 commands and rules that they considered equally important. Different rabbis had different thoughts on what the greatest commandment was and any answer Jesus gave would conflict with the views of some of the religious leaders. Jesus, however, again defeated their attempts to discredit Him by claiming that the greatest commandment was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The greatest commandment that Jesus quotes here was something the Jews prayed every morning. Even today, devout Jews daily recite ‘The Shema’ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Then Jesus went further and gave them more than they asked for saying, “and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus hereby narrowed all their rules and regulations down to two commandments and concludes by saying, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. Jesus Christ is here saying that everything else depends on these two commandments - loving God and loving your neighbour.
Our love for God must take priority over everything else. God deserves all of our love and not only part of our love. According to Jesus Christ love can only be fully manifested when we love God first. Loving God supernaturally produces love for others in us. True love is not a feeling or an emotion, it is a decision to sacrifice and give to another. We choose to love or we choose not to love. Many people love themselves, but this is not love it is selfishness. J.B. Phillips said, “The man who does not love God is really in love with himself, his position, his success, and his pleasure.” Loving God involves giving our lives in worship and service to Him. Jesus said, “Worship the Lord Your God and serve Him only.” To some people serving God is to do what they think will get them to heaven. We can however only serve God in the right way when we serve Him out of love. Why do we pray and study the Word of God? Why do we sing and participate in church activities? If it is not because we love God we will be missing the most important aspect of our service to God.
Many people today are seeking God, not to know and love Him, but just to get what He can provide. They are only interested in the benefits and not the relationship. Other people think that being a Christian means following a set of rules and performing certain acts. Christianity is not religion. Christianity is a relationship. Christianity is not about what we are required to do but about what we do as a result of our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only when we have a relationship with Christ that we can love Him with all our heart. The heart is one of the important and necessary organs of the body. Without it there can be no life. But more than that, the heart is also the centre of our spiritual being. It is from our heart that we develop our passions and our values that in turn determine our character. The Scriptures put it simply that from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. God wants our hearts. He wants to begin a wonderful relationship with us, a relationship that begins when we acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour.
We can only love our neighbour when we love God. It is that love that makes it possible for us to give up our comforts and joys to obey Him. Our deeds bring on a new meaning when they spring from a deep love of God. Oswald Chambers understood this when he said, “If I work for God because I know it brings me the good opinion of those who’s good opinion I wish to have, I am a Pharisee. If I love Jesus Christ, I will serve humanity, though men and women treat me like a doormat.” If we really love God, we will love even the unlovable. A Christian does not only love the people of God, he loves all people. He is warm and sensitive to God’s people but also loves those who do not know God. He does not only love his own family but also all those he comes into contact with.