Summary: A sermon about the Law of Love.
“What’s It All About?”
How can a person legitimately look into the face of an enemy and feel unqualified love?
It is nearly impossible, is it not?
And yet, Jesus tells us that this is what it means to be a Christ-follower.
I’d say we live in a very "religious" world, and I suppose that we always have.
Most people, even if they don't admit it, believe in God.
One snowy day…many, many moons ago...I was driving "a bit" too fast down an icy, curvy road when suddenly I lost control of the car.
Have you ever done that?
It's a horrible feeling isn't it?
In any event, I was traveling with a buddy of mine named Dave.
I had known Dave for several years, but I had never heard Dave discuss religion or God.
I just took it for granted that Dave didn't think much about it.
In any event, when you are sliding in a car, out of control on snow and ice, there is not much you can do but pray.
For a couple seconds at most--which can seem like a lifetime--you have no idea whether you will be alive or dead in the next moment.
We just ended up in a snow drift.
But as soon as the car stopped, Dave said aloud: "Praise the Lord."
So, my buddy, whom I had never thought of as particularly religious had been praying during our moments on the ice.
There are no atheists in foxholes; I believe that.
But when we pray to God, what kind of God are we praying to?
There can be no doubt that we live in a very mixed up, angry and confused world.
And a lot of folks have just about had enough of "religion."
"Religion" has sort of a bad name in the wider world right now.
Whether it comes from greedy television evangelists, pedophile priests or politicians hijacking Christianity in order to get elected many folks don't see much good in it.
Of course, the bad stuff gets the press.
In his book, When Religion Becomes Evil, Charles Kimball writes: "Muslims declare jihad, or 'holy war.'
Hindus murder Muslims in order to cleanse a temple site.
Palestinian suicide bombers kill Zionist settlers.
Israeli bulldozers demolish Arab homes.
All these acts of religious violence are defended as faithful to a God who, though called by different names, loves the elect and hates the rest."
Sometimes, as Christians we can become surprised by our own ability to act with hate and retribution, even though we worship a God of unconditional love and grace.
If I don't watch myself, I can easily become critical of others, while ignoring my own mistakes.
And when I'm doing something really, really good?
I can become filled with pride...
...so "puffed up" about how unselfish and humble I am.
And those pedophile priests and greedy evangelists?
No doubt, what they have done or are doing is more than wrong...more than evil.
But are we to judge them?
It's a crazy life.
That's why we need Jesus, and that's why we need to return again and again to His Words and His Church.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, the religious leaders of Jesus' day are becoming desperate.
After Jesus' messianic entry into Jerusalem, His prophetic attack upon the Temple they are publicly confronting Jesus in order to try and discredit Him.
Their question about the greatest commandment comes after a conversation on the legitimacy of paying taxes to Caesar and then the resurrection.
And, as in other discussions, Jesus confounds the scribes and Pharisees with His superior biblical knowledge and irrefutable logic.
When He is asked which commandment is the greatest, Jesus quotes Judaism's most fundamental, ancient and most widely read biblical passage.
It's called the Shema: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."
But Jesus doesn't leave it there.
He adds another Scripture, this one is a little-known Scripture verse from Leviticus 19:18: "You must love your neighbor as yourself."
But the interesting thing is that when Jesus says, "And the second is like it"--the love your neighbor part--He's suggesting that these two commandments aren't really two commandments at all.
It's as if they are two sides of the same coin.
What is the greatest commandment?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself."
All the Law and Prophets hang on this.
There is no way to love God without loving our neighbor, and in loving our neighbor we are loving God--whether we know it or not.
This presented a problem for the Pharisees and it also presents a problem for us.