Summary: Using the Great Commandment of loving God and loving others, this sermon concludes with 8 theological insights related to Hurricane Katrina.
Restoring Levees of Love
Rev. Brian Bill
Today is the four-year anniversary of 9/11 and once again our country has been rocked by events beyond our control as we’ve seen cities stagger and people uprooted. Columnist Kathleen Parker writes: “What can you say about horror? Not much. Nothing pithy comes to mind, no commentary rings quite true. As when terrorists struck nearly four years ago, America has been rendered aghast, this time not by man but by a terrorizing force of nature…Once again, America finds itself at a loss for words” (“The Pantagraph,” 9/6/05).
Aren’t you thankful that God still speaks through His Word today? We might not know what to say, but perhaps in our silence we can hear from the Holy One who sits enthroned above the earth and yet is attentive to our cry. Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 12:28-34. Let’s set the context. It’s the last week of Jesus’ life. He’s just cleared out the temple and chased away the money-changers and now his enemies unleash a hurricane of hatred toward Him. At the end of chapter 11, the chief priests, teachers of the law and elders confront Christ with a question. In 12:13 we read, “Later, they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.” These divergent groups, that didn’t even like each other, banded together to try to trap Jesus. In verse 18, the Sadducees ask him a crazy question about the afterlife. I love the answer Jesus gives them in verse 24: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” May that never be said of us!
And then one of the teachers, who had heard this debate, was drawn to Jesus. Likewise, in the midst of the questions and even the conflict surrounding the catastrophe in the Gulf Coast, let’s make sure and go to Jesus as well. This man asked the following question in verse 28: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” He wants to know which one has the most weight. This was an often-debated question among the religious leaders. We generally think of there being 10 Commandments but the Pharisees actually added up all of them and came up with 613 – 248 were on the positive side: “do this” or “do that” and 365 were negative: “don’t do this, don’t do that.” For them, “a don’t a day” kept the devil away!
Jesus answers by stating that are two “love levees” that will never leak. His answer summarizes the entire teaching of Scripture and can be remembered by the four letters that Pastor Jeff uses in the student ministry: LGLO: LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS. Warren Wiersbe points out that Jesus’ answer reveals that we are to live “not by rules but by relationships.”
Notice verse 29: “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Friends, we must always begin with God, no matter what happens. The top priority, the number one command is so important that Jesus quotes “The Shema,” which literally means, “to hear.” This verse from Deuteronomy 6 was recited by every pious Jew in the morning and evening, and some still do it today. This statement affirms the unity of God and the community that He has with His people. Notice two points here.
First, Jesus goes right to Scripture for the answer. Second, He establishes the Sovereignty of God by calling Him Yahweh. Friends, when trying to answer questions, especially tough ones, it’s imperative that we go to the Scriptures and that we lift up the sovereignty of God, emphasizing who He is and the relationship He has with His people. Let’s look at the two levees of love.
Levee #1: Love God with all you have (30). Verse 30: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” I’m struck by at least three truths in this verse.
Love is more than a feeling. It’s a command and a privilege. You and I must make a conscious decision to love God. Love is principally an action; not primarily an emotion.
Love should lead to a relationship. Jesus personalizes a relationship with the Lord by using the phrase, “your God.” That leads to a question. Is He your God?
Love is to be comprehensive. Notice the four uses of the word “all.” God’s whole-hearted love for us cannot be answered with half-hearted commitment from us. By listing the heart, soul, mind, and strength, no area is left out. We’re to love Him with everything we have – with devotion in our hearts, with passion in our souls, with thoughtfulness in our heads, and with energy through our hands.