Today, at Matthew 22:34-40, we again find Jesus being questioned by a group of Pharisees who ask him, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law”? (22:36)
His answer? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself”. (22:37-38)
It was an answer that has its origins in Deuteronomy (6:5), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength”, and Leviticus, (19:18), “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people but love your neighbour as yourself”.
Of all the numerous Commandments in the Old Testament Law, Jesus took two, linked them together and said that ‘love’ is central to God's Law.
It is a love where, at times, we may be still, simply enjoying God’s presence, spending time with Him in quietness, sharing every aspect of our life with Him; being as one with Him.
But love is more than an experience of God that we are to hold in our heart. It is a love that is to be shared with others, “Love your neighbour as yourself”.
God's love is not passive. He is a God who is active in the world. Scripture is littered with examples where He takes direct action; the greatest of which was to send Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”. (John 3: 16)
God's love is so deep and intense, it is sacrificial. God's great sacrificial gift of love to the world, was the gift of His only Son.
Christ’s sacrificial gift of love to us was on the cross. “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. (John 15: 13)
So, we are not to merely sit all cocooned in God's love, we are to be active in the world in sharing God's love.
We love God by loving his people; by having concern for others. But as we know, that can be difficult.
There may be people with whom we just don't see eye to eye, and love or help is the last thing we may feel like giving.
Some people will annoy us; some will upset us; some will be ungrateful. We will be let down. But Jesus experienced all that, and more.
Remember, that despite the living example of love he showed his Disciples, Judas betrayed him; Peter denied him and, together with the others, deserted him.
And what about some of the people he helped? On one occasion, he healed a whole group of people, ten of them, yet only one came back to say thank you. The other nine never even bothered to acknowledge his help. (Luke 17:11-19)
This love is not without risk, either. When we put others before self, when we give of ourselves so freely and so completely, we become vulnerable.
Our help and good intentions can blow back in our face. Our offers of help, our love may even be received with indifference. We may be disappointed and tempted to give up. But in Jesus, it is also a forgiving love we see. It is a love that doesn't bear grudges.
When we are involved in sharing God’s love with others, in doing God’s work, we must be prepared for the knocks and the disappointments.
Loving others can be hard work. How can we love our neighbour as ourselves? It seems impossible.
But when we take Christ at his word; when we trust, when we love God, in turn, we are empowered to love others. Our ability to love others is founded in our love of God.
We carry out the commandment to love God in a real and concrete way by our concern and for the well-being of others.
We find the strength to love our neighbour through God’s love. God, the Creator. God, whose power sustains the Universe, He gives us the strength. And God's power and strength is limitless; that, is what keeps us going.
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind....and Love your neighbour as yourself”.
And so, following Christ's command, let us love God with every fibre of our being. Then, let us put that love into action and make it a reality in the lives of others.
Let us pray.
Loving, Heavenly Father, as we come to you in prayer, we open ourselves to You completely. We are still and, in prayer, in peace and quiet, rest in Your presence; being at one with You.
While we know we are held safe in Your love we also know that we are to share that love. As Jesus reached out in love to those on the margins, so we pray for all who have little love in their lives – those who are lonely and afraid, those who grieve and mourn, those whose relationships have fallen apart and are shattered.
We pray for those who love the wrong things – those for whom money or possessions are “god” and where greed has taken over, those who can only love self and where bitterness or hurt has made them inward-looking; God of love, help us to unlock their hearts.
Loving Lord, may Your law of love be so written upon our hearts, that whatever we do in Your Name, we do humbly and whatever we give of ourselves, we give lovingly.
Amen, and at all times, let us follow in Christ’s footsteps and in his love.