Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
What is the greatest command? What is it that we really need? In Matthew 22:36 a scholar in Jewish law asks Jesus that very question. And Jesus’ response, in verses 37-40 is that we must love God with all we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. Love God. Love your neighbor. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40, ESV).
How are we going to do this? How do we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind? All the time? That’s impossible, isn’t it?
In fact, it is impossible. We’re going to fail, and fail regularly. We may as well admit it. We fail to keep God’s commands. The most important thing there is, we do only halfheartedly. Or possibly we exceed the halfway level sometimes. But we are far short of God’s perfection.
Moving right along, as if the first command will disappear. What else are we supposed to do? Love our neighbor as ourselves.
Some people have taken this command to mean that we need to learn to love ourselves better. Yet the biblical accounts never seem to say that we have a problem caused by a failure to love ourselves. Really, the problem is normally the opposite. We love ourselves too much. We love our comfort. We love our power. We love our advantages. We love our wealth. And we love all of this enough that we want to get more. It’s for ourselves, not for those other noble purposes that we can invent if we try really hard. No, we love ourselves, heap big plenty.
Do we love our neighbor that much? Jesus tells us that we need to do so. Really? Yes, really. How do we deal with this one? I know! I like to be left alone, so I’m going to leave my neighbor alone also. There. Done.
This probably isn’t what Jesus means. No, he intends us to show love and care to others around us. We make love for our neighbor a matter of things that we do.
So we fail on both counts. What hope is there for us? We throw ourselves on God’s mercy in Christ and depend on his forgiveness and restoration. If we love Jesus, we keep his commandments, and that means asking his forgiveness. He came to restore us to God and to our fellow man. He came for forgiveness. This is our hope. In this way we depend on the Lord who has loved God with all his heart and who has loved his neighbor, us.
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