This isn’t really much of a blog post, it’s actually just the outline of the five minute sermon I had the honor of sharing at my church this Sunday along with four other amazing individuals. So if your reading this, I hope this can encourage you wherever you are and whatever you are facing. You are dearly loved.
Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducee’s, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
I am a bit of a health nut… or more like health freak. I definitely spend way too much time researching what is good to put in your body- and what is not. And I’ll be honest, I try so hard not to judge people on their food choices. But some days it is actually painful for me to hear about them. When you eat that huge cheeseburger, and fries and milkshake in front of me, my heart actually goes out to you. And not out of “my eating choice is better than yours” attitude, but with a real and genuine concern for your arteries and well-being.
Now, most people put up with me because they can see that it is a genuine passion of mine. They know this is something I both practice and preach. If I didn’t take care of myself in this way, I would have no ground on to which encourage others to.People wouldn’t take my advice seriously if I didn’t understand this stuff myself, it’s the same way we cannot practice loving others without receiving it ourselves. We cannot make someone understand what we do not know. We cannot give what we have not received and we cannot make someone experience something we do not believe.
I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this portion of the scripture in The Message, Matthew 22:37
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.”
The original Greek word used for love is the verb “agapaō”. Our attempt to understand this word is to define it as something that is “of persons,” to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly and to welcome, to be well pleased or contented at or with a thing.” Because it is a verb, this means it is an action word. When you think of something that is in action you think of something that is alive, something that is moving etc. So when you look at this verse, think of it as Jesus saying you are to actively welcome God into your life and to love him with all of your heart, your passion, your prayer and intelligence. But this verb “agapaō” is also used in 1 John 4:19 –“We love because he first loved us.”
So to simplify, we love God and others actively with all of our heart – because he first loved us actively with all of His heart. God isn’t expecting us to love Himself or others without first showing us how much He loves us. That is like someone asking an individual to marry them without the one being asked knowing who in the world this person is, or if they can even be in love with them. That’s crazy. If God wanted our love to be forced, he would have done so. But he gave us a choice. I would encourage you to give God the space in the secret place for Him to lavish His love upon you.
“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39
It seems that many theologians would sum up the context of this verse as – “because you love yourself so much, use that self-love to motivate you to love others to the same place”. Basically they are stating that self-love should encourage you to love others.
I think it’s important to recognize this portion of Scripture comes after “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind.” It’s not saying to worship ones’ self. But rather the degree to which you love yourself is the degree to which you can love others. When God made us, he declared in Gen. 1 that “it was good” and that we were made in his very image. So when we love ourselves, we love Him. The Psalmist in Psalms 139 wrote that “We are fearfully and wonderfully made and knit together by Him in our mother’s womb.” If this is true, and we are not taking the time to appreciate the creation that he so intentionally designed in love, how are we going to appreciate that in one another?
“On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”- Matthew 22:40
The Pharisees made the mistake of reversing these. They seemed to believe that God’s love was dependent on their ability to follow the Law. That love was dependent on performance. When Jesus told them the exact opposite, The Law was given in love as a way to be in relationship with Him until the coming of Jesus, who then would fulfill the requirements of the Law.
Sometimes I think we act in a very similar way to the Pharisees. I think the hardest thing about loving others is that we don’t always see its reward. Some people simply don’t appreciate the effort we pour into them. And it’s easy to slip into a place where we try and measure the impact we make on people’s lives and use that to determine where we stand with God.
However, this is usually rooted in insecurity. If we really believe the God who created the whole world was in love with us and even sent his only Son to die for us, we wouldn’t feel the need to go and earn his love. Why try and earn something that has already been given to you? Everything flows forth from love. So it starts in being in love with our Creator, loving who our Creator made us to be and out of this place loving his Creation.
You are ever so loved!