Summary: Christ uses the teachings of Jewish culture as the backdrop to convey how people should love
One of the strangest moments for me on an airplane is when the plane backs up from the gate and begins to taxi towards the runway and the flight attendants come on and begin to give you instructions concerning the lights and what to do in case there is a loss of cabin pressure. And one of the instructions that they give you concerns the oxygen masks that come down if the cabin pressure drops. And what they say to you is that in the case and instance of a loss of cabin pressure, if you are traveling with an infant, place the oxygen mask on yourself FIRST before placing it over the mouth of the baby. And when you first think about that, those instructions seem kind of odd and, quite honestly, seems to be quite selfish. It would seem to me that the first thing you would want to do is to make sure to get some oxygen to the infant who is not as strong or lungs are smaller than yours. It appears to be quite selfish and self-centered to leave the child WITHOUT oxygen while you hook up yourself. But when you properly understand what is being said, there is a major principle, premise and throught of life and theology wrapped up in those instructions—you have to put the mask on yourself FIRST because you can not take care of ANOTHER person if you don’t FIRST take care of YOURSELF. You have to put yourself FIRST in order be there to help somebody ELSE. If you are NOT in proper shape, safety and security YOURSELF, then you are in NO shape to help somebody else. It is the same thought and premise we convey to persons who don’t have the adequate means to live and thrive in the economic demands and reality of our day; and they have a desire to bring children into the world. We often rush to ask them, ‘how are you going to take care of somebody else, when you can’t even take care of yourself?’
This is the exact principle that is communicated here by the words of our Savior—the life-giver-King Himself—Jesus, as He is having a discussion, dialogues and discourse with one of the Jewish scribes from the temple. Jesus has had, prior to this, three hostile, rigorous conversations with some of the leaders of the temple who have ought with Him because of His refusal to conform to some of the rules that had been set up. And people who don’t like change will always seek to destroy the change that makes them uncomfortable. And so they spend all of their time in an attempt to TRAP Jesus and make Him trip up on the law. And so as Jesus ends one of these debates there is one scholar and scribe who sees that Jesus has answered every question and every challenge vociferously and properly. And so he comes to Jesus now—NOT from a hostile angle; but from one of curiosity. And he asks Jesus—‘which out of all the commandments is the most important.’ It’s a very interesting question; and Jesus sums up the question with two statements. The first is how you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength.’ And it is the second one that trips me up; He says, ‘And love your neighbor like you love yourself’. The implication is very powerful; because what it means is to be authentically Christian, means I have to know how to love ME before I can love YOU. It is a PARADOX—because I have to put ME first in order to put YOU first. Now I know that this PARADOX sounds theologically PARADOXICAL to what we’ve been taught – because we always teach and have taught that when you put yourself first, it’s being selfish. And, more often than not, that is absolutely true. But please understand here, that if you are going to walk in love, and in God-honoring relationships with other Christians, and in a functional relationship with anybody, you’ve got to put yourself FIRST to love YOU before you can love anybody else.
And what that means is—THE WAY I TREAT OTHERS IS A GIVEAWAY FOR HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF. If I’m always talking ABOUT other people, it says something about what I don’t like about ME. If I’m always nasty, mean, condescending, skeptical, cynical, judgmental or just plane hateful toward other people, it says something about how I feel about myself.
And this is a major word that needs to be preached in the church. Why? Because we know more about how to HURT each other than we do about how to LOVE one other.
- We hurt one other when we gossip about one other.