Sunday, October 23, 2011

The big two

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:34-46

TO CHEW ON: Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39

If you're like me, it's not the first command of this duo that gives you the most trouble, but the second. And yet they appear to stand on equal footing.

A sidebar article in my Bible commenting on these verses says:

"One of the greatest indicators that we are growing in our relationship with God is found in our willingness to love. God is love. Love is not just something that He does. It's what He is. It follows, then, that we are never more godly, never more like God than when we love.... we cannot fulfill the first commandment to love God without obeying the second command to love our neighbour" - Kenneth Ulmer, "Growth in Love," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1332.

One way to make it easier to love one's neighbour is to narrow the definition. It's hard enough to love the neighbour who is "in our neighbourhood" of family, physical closeness, friends, persons similar to us in income, lifestyle, intellect, and values. But Jesus defined neighbour much more broadly. When a young lawyer asked Him who his neighbour was, Jesus told the Good Samaritan story, illustrating that a neighbour is any needy person who comes across one's  path (Luke 10:29-37).

Looking at the challenge of how to love my neighbour from the perspective of a parent has helped me understand God's heart here. We have two kids. It gave me a lot of joy to see them laughing, kibitzing with each other, helping each other out and generally getting along. But it grieved me to see them fight. I loved both of them and wanted them to love each other.

So, when I'm tempted to harbour ill will or dwell on thoughts of dislike for a person, I remind myself that God loves that person. He is the Creator-Father of both of us, and He would want me to love him or her too.

PRAYER: Dear God, I have far to go in obeying Your command to love my neighbour as myself and to live it out in practical ways. Help me to grow in this today. Amen.

MORE: John Piper on this passage

"The command to love my neighbor as I love myself really feels like a threat to my own self-love. How is this even possible? If there is born in us a natural desire for our own happiness, and if this is not in itself evil, but good, how can we give it up and begin only to seek the happiness of others at the expense of our own?

I think that is exactly the threat that Jesus wants us to feel, until we realize that this—exactly this—is why the first commandment is the first commandment. It's the first commandment that makes the second commandment doable and takes away the threat that the second commandment is really the suicide of our own happiness. The first commandment is, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (v. 37). The first commandment is the basis of the second commandment. The second commandment is a visible expression of the first commandment. Which means this: Before you make your own self-seeking the measure of your self-giving, make God the focus of your self-seeking..." (you've got to read the rest of this excellent article!) - By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

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