MARCH 19, 2020

Love Your Neighbors

By Pastor Dennis Yim

New Testament Passage: Matthew 22:34-40 

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” 

The Greatest Commandment

How would you sum up the Law of God? That’s the essential question the Pharisees asked Jesus. They wanted to test Him to see if they could find any flaws in this alleged “Son of God.” However, they weren’t ready to receive such a profound answer that would change their whole paradigm of understanding the Law: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Jesus doesn’t come up with this on His own. No, rather He turns to the Word of God (the Old Testament) and quotes Deuteronomy 6:5. There’s this settle rebuke in this answer, because obviously that’s the most important commandment in the law of Moses; but Jesus adds a second command that’s as equally as important to the first: Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18). If you don’t mind, I would summarize Jesus’ answer as: Love the Lord your God with your whole being and love your neighbors. These two equally important commandments summarize the whole Mosaic Law. Yet, I would like to emphasize this: it summarizes the whole Christian life.

The Love of God and Neighbor

If we say that we love God with our whole being, and we have given Him our undivided allegiance and loyalty, and have made Him our ultimate love, then we must love our neighbors with the unconditional love of God. We cannot truly love God unless we truly love our neighbors. This is what Jesus was trying to communicate to the Pharisees. The Pharisees have become religious men who sought only to attain religious accolades so that God would smile upon them and say that He’s proud of all of their individualized piety. Yet, these religious men were actually quite sacrilegious. They were not mindful nor loving towards their neighbor; if anything, they judged and condemned others for not being as religiously pious as they were. Jesus despised that. Why? Because religious piety is hypocrisy at its finest. Tim Keller said in his book Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism: "The basic premise of religion - that if you live a good life, things will go well for you - is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet He had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture." The true authentic faith is one that is deeply rooted in our union with Jesus Christ, which then leads us to loving our neighbors indiscriminately.

So how do we deal with false religious piety? By turning to the Gospel. Tim Keller described the Gospel like this: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. The more we know God the deeper we experience and come to know His agape – unconditional and covenantal – love for us. Yet, as we grow in His love, we grow in our love for our neighbors. We become genuinely concerned for their well-being – both spiritual and physical. We begin to care by finding ways to help their daily needs. As we love our neighbors faithfully, as Jesus loves us faithfully, we will begin to have a viable witness to a world that knows perverted and self-centered love all too well. The love of Jesus Christ is expressed to by entering into our broken and chaotic world in the flesh. He knows what it’s like to suffer, He knows what it’s like to be all alone and isolated, He knows what it’s like when everything seems to be utterly hopeless and lost. Jesus knows what you are facing today. He’s not standing over you and saying, “buck up pal, and get a move on it.” No, rather He stands side-by-side with you and constantly saying, “I’m here with you because I love (agape) you.” The two greatest commands that Jesus says in this passage is perfectly displayed in His death on the cross and in His resurrection. Jesus faithfully loved His Father and His people, and He expressed that love by dying and rising for us so that His Kingdom-rule may reign, and the forces of evil may not prevail over us. This is the paradigm of the Gospel love that we are called to live by: Love the Lord your God with your whole being and love your neighbors.  

Reflection and Prayer

Take some time to discuss with your family and friends on how this Gospel paradigm is challenging your understanding of the love of God. Discuss how this paradigm is challenging you to love your neighbors. What are some practical ways that you can love your neighbors well? Ask the Lord to help you to grow in His love and in your love for your neighbors. Pray for your neighbors who are struggling and are in need today. Pray for your neighbors who don’t know the Lord and ask Him to give you an opportunity to witness to them.   

Communal Prayer

O God,

Your main plan, and the end of your will is to make Christ glorious and beloved in heaven where he is now ascended, where one day all the elect with behold his glory and love and glorify him forever. Though here I love him, but little may this be my portion at last. In this world you have given me a beginning, one day it will be perfected in the realm above. You have helped me to see and know Christ, though obscurely, to take him, receive him, to possess him, love him, to bless him in my heart, mouth, life. Let me study and stand for discipline, and all the ways of worship, out of love for Christ; and to show my thankfulness; to seek and know his will for love, to hold it in love, and daily to care for and keep this state of heart. You have led me to place all my nature and happiness in oneness with Christ, in having heart and mind centered only on him, in being like him in communicating good to others. This is my heaven on earth. But I need the force, energy, impulses of your Spirit to carry me on the way to my Jerusalem. Here, it is my duty to be as Christ in this world, to do what he would do, to live as he would live, to walk in love and meekness; then would he be known, then would I have peace. Amen.