Summary: Something is missing from the church today, and people are starting to notice. Too often the church fails to offer what it advertises: life.
1. The Greatest Commandment
February 14, 2010
The Greatest Commandment
Corrie Ten Boom and her family secretly housed Jews in their home during WW II. Their "illegal" activity was discovered, and Corrie and her sister Bessie were sent to the German death camp, Ravensbruck. There Corrie would watch many, including her sister, die. After the war she returned to Germany to share her testimony and the grace of God. She had been traveling around a defeated Germany speaking about forgiveness. She spoke on how when God forgives our sins He casts them into the deepest ocean and they are gone forever, and then God puts up a sign that says “No fishing allowed”. At one of her speeches she saw a man in the crowd she recognized. She saw this man who brought back all the horrors of her captivity in prison. She remembered her sister who had died there as she looked at this man walking towards her after she had spoken. He was one of the guards. In fact he was one of the most cruel guards. He walked up to her and put his hand out: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!" Corrie Ten Boom wrote in her story how reluctant she had been to take his hand. She didn’t expect that he would remember her but she certainly remembered him. She said “I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze."You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard there. But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein," again the hand came out "will you forgive me?" She said she thought of her sister who had died and all the terrible things that had been done and she wondered how it could be erased so simply. She wrote that it was the most difficult thing she had to do but she fought through the anger in her heart and forced herself to try and offer forgiveness. So she raised her hand woodenly and she wrote: And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. "I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!" For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.
Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. Mt 22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: Mt 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Mt 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. Mt 22:39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Mt 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Luke adds also with all your strength. So tell me. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength what’s left? What is it that doesn’t fit into one of those categories? What Jesus is telling us is that we need to love God with all that we are. Love God with everything that we have. When we do this and then we love our neighbor as ourselves we are actually fulfilling the entire law. The entire Old Testament and its 613 laws can be summed up in a single command. That should tell you something: it is an important command to keep. I wonder how we are doing.
When we read this passage we read it differently than Jesus audience would have heard it. As part of the scientific age we have separated all the parts of the body to their specific functions. The Heart beats pumps blood to the body, the mind which we associate with the brain is the operation center that controls the body and allows us to think and understand. Thus we distinguish greatly between the two both in their literal functions in our body and the symbolic way in which they are used. For us the mind and the heart serve two very different functions. We even recognize that of the two the brain is more important. After all if your heart dies there is a chance it can be resuscitated but if your brain dies you die. The mind is the composition of our knowledge, it controls our thoughts, and is the primary factor in our decision making. Conversely the heart is not where we do our thinking but where our feelings come from. There are times in which we would associate understanding with the heart as going beyond just head knowledge but something that we know deep down in the core of our being. Basically the mind is for knowledge and understanding and the heart is for feelings and emotions. Jesus audience would not have made those same distinctions. In fact they had no awareness of the brain as a center for consciousness, thought, or will. All of the minds functions in our understanding would actually be functions of the heart in their understanding. There is no word for mind in the Hebrew language. So for Jesus audience there is a significant overlap between the heart and the mind and in their eyes the heart carries out the more important functions. Today we know that at least physiologically that is not the case. A bad heart can be replaced but we are not yet to the point where we can do brain transplants, perhaps we never will be. However in the mind of Jesus audience all the aspects we attribute to the mind would have been attributed to the heart.