Today’s message from Mark 12: 28-34 showcases the Bible’s core message, about loving God and people. Have you ever wanted to know the most powerful statement of the entire Judeo-Christian tradition? Stay-tuned because you’ll soon have it.
The original setting for our discussion began when Jesus was asked a crucial question by a studious observer. Jesus had just finished winning arguments with religious bureaucrats near the Jerusalem Temple when a man asked “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus’ response contains the universal supremacy of love. No one ancient or modern can successfully argue against loving God and others.
Jesus stated that the first and greatest of all human purposes is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). Nothing ever written or said about human religion, spirituality, meaning or purpose surpasses this.
Have you ever wanted a straight answer? As Jesus spoke about loving God, he told the truth full-on, without any parable or obscure language. People crave such a splendid response. Although Jesus’ critics heard his response, they fought against it and hardened their hearts. Let us pray that we will allow God to teach us the depths of love, including how we can better receive and share it with every living creature.
One of the ways we can better prepare to love is to manage our strengths and weaknesses. Church is a great place to do this. We gather ourselves in church so we can grow. Church is more than a spectator sport or something we do because of mindless habit or social momentum. Hopefully, we engage church because we are drawn to it for all the right reasons. The stakes are high because our destiny and soul health hangs in the balance. Let us set aside apathy and disinterest and strive to achieve God’s love.
What is God’s will? We know that God is love, and that our purpose entails loving God and neighbor (two sides of the same issue). Love is paramount. If we neglect love, then we are missing the point of life and we can’t please God or achieve lasting joy. You may ask, “What’s wrong with doing miracles, charitable acts and wonderful, fantastic accomplishments?” The problem arises in only going through the motions without embracing the substance.
In terms of our institutional church, we must realize that no liturgy, tradition or religious performance art can replace love. Religion may consist of all sorts of outward acts, but religion won’t get you to heaven. It’s about a relationship, not ritual. Going through the motions may make you religious, but it can’t guarantee soul health. Religion without relationship is incomplete and dangerous. The key is to cultivate a personal, intimate relationship with God. What you do and how you think outside church says more about you than what you do in church.
It isn’t easy to love. Love can cost us, and it is often inconvenient and messy. Love is also imprecise in that unlike most religion, it doesn’t follow a rule book. Regardless, love is our life purpose and nothing is greater. We have the joyful responsibility of loving God by loving others, and of loving others by loving God. The relationship here is reflexive, such that we can’t claim we love God if we don’t demonstrate love toward others (and vice-versa).
Jesus encourages us to be wise, and to build our spiritual houses upon the founding rock of God’s promises. Alternatively, Jesus warned his listeners by saying that those who ignore God’s will do so at their peril. Let us therefore choose love and life, and draw close to God. We can commit to overcome whatever holds us back. There are no excuses. We are victors, not victims.
If there is anything greater than love, then God has not revealed it. Love exceeds all creeds, confessions, catechisms and theology. Love is the bottom-line of Christianity and the essential element making our faith true, powerful and relevant. May God be praised, and may we receive, celebrate and share God’s love every day and in every way.