Matthew 22.34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38This is the great and b foremost commandment. 39The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
As I reflected on this passage, I wondered why loving God was considered the great commandment, I mean why must we be told to love God. Doesn’t that come naturally, or shouldn’t it? And if not, why doesn’t it? And why is it so hard to love other people?
And as I talked to some friends of mine this week about this passage, it hit me why I must be told…no scratch that…commanded to love God with all that I am. Genesis 3. You see in Genesis 1 & 2 we have this beautiful story of creation, where all of the universe is the work of a benevolent Creator who lovingly fashions a world that He describes as good, even very good. He makes a man and woman, our first parents, in His own image from dust of the ground and breathes into their nostrils the breath of life, and they become living beings. And He gives them charge over all the earth. Think of it. A perfect world with no death, no corruption, no hatred, no ugliness of any kind. A perfect relationship with God and with each other.
Enter the serpent in Genesis 3. Through deceit and manipulation he convinces our first parents that being image bearers is not enough. Having dominion over the earth is not enough. No, they really want to be their own gods. And they fall for the lies of the enemy and forgetting the benevolence of their loving Creator and not being content to simply be image bearers and stewards of creation, they seek to be their own gods. And all of creation suffers the repercussions of their betrayal as perfection becomes deeply marred and the image of God tainted. Sin enters the world and death through sin. And now the love of God is no longer innate, love of self would become predominate and competition with others a part of the legacy of the fall.
So what was once natural…loving God and loving people…has become very unnatural. And frankly, impossible, given our fallen state. But even in the midst of our rebellion, God provided for our redemption…hope for a way back. It was a risky proposition. It would cost Him everything. His own Son would have to die, but in so doing He would redeem the world that He had made, and so He gave them the promise of Genesis 3:15, the Head-Crushing, Seed of the Woman, who would one day ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, cleanse the temple, face down the political and religious elite, be beaten and crucified, then buried; three days later He would rise from the dead and ascend to the right hand of the Father awaiting the day when He would once again ride into Jerusalem, this time on a white horse… In the meantime, having accomplished redemption and having provided the way back to the Father, His Spirit is at work building His kingdom, rescuing one person at a time.
As I thought about my own life, examples of my failure to love God as evidenced by my failure to love others are multiplied. It’s evident in my selfish attitude toward my family (just ask them). It’s obvious when I look down on others or begin to judge their motives, which happens more often than I would care to admit. It’s plain to see when I’m too busy to be interrupted. But there are flashes of obedience when I see the pain of others and my heart is broken. When I become angry at the injustices done to others. When I share the gospel because I know that it’s the only hope that we have.
But what about you? Where are challenged to love others more? Are you spending time with the Lord, seeking to love Him with all that you are?
This story challenges us not to be like the Pharisees who have made the love of God a game of trivial pursuit, who have made loving others an optional exercise, but to be more like our Savior who made loving God and loving people central, who demonstrated His love for His Father by loving us who were made in His image.
My prayer for us is that we would grow in our love and devotion to God and that that would become evident as we look for opportunities with our classmates, with our neighbors, with our friends, with our family, with our co-workers to love others in very real and practical ways, to point them to the hope we have in Jesus, so that we might make loving God and loving people central.
Until next time…stay salty.
You can listened to an mp3 of this sermon online at: http://www.centralchristian.org.