Love for God and Others

1 John 48 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 22:34–40 (ESV)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Parallel Text: Mark 12:28-34

Understanding and Applying the Word

The religious leaders continued to approach Jesus to “test” him. Their desire was to trap him in some way so they could accuse him of wrongdoing or draw attention away from him. In order to do this, a lawyer who was a Pharisee went to Jesus to ask him a question. A lawyer was one who was considered an expert in the Old Testament law. The lawyer asked Jesus, “[Which] is the great commandment in the Law?”

Jesus continued to show his great wisdom and ability to deal with the religious leaders’ attacks when he answered the lawyer’s question. Jesus told him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…[and] You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These two statements were not new. Jesus quoted directly from the Law as found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The lawyer would have been very familiar with Jesus’ references. The entire Law is summarized by these two statements.

Our love for God and our love for others are intricately related to one another. 1 John tells us that we cannot claim to love the Lord and hate our brother since God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8). This is why Jesus put these two seemingly separate commands together when asked about the greatest commandment. They cannot be separated.

When we evaluate our relationship with God we must also consider how well we love other people. If we love the Lord, we will love others. If our love for the Lord is growing, our love for others should be growing as well. Do you love God? Do you love your neighbors?

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What Is the Loving Thing To Do?

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 14:1–6 (ESV)

1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was dining at the house of a Pharisee. This is an important detail in this story because the Pharisees were known for their strong emphasis on keeping the law. They were so committed to keeping the law, that they even added additional rules of their own to make sure they kept the law. They were the legalists of Jesus’ day.

One of the laws that was central to Jewish life was the keeping of the Sabbath. No work was to be done. So, when a man with dropsy went to see Jesus on a Sabbath, what would Jesus do? Would he heal the man or would he refuse to work on the Sabbath? Jesus asked his hosts what they thought about the situation. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” he asked. They remained silent, so he asked them if they had a son or an ox that fell into a well on a Sabbath, would they pull the son or ox out. Of course they would! The welfare of a person, or even an animal, is too important. It was not the intent of the law to harm people. So, of course healing a person on the Sabbath is lawful!

Jesus’ questions that confronted the Pharisees legalistic mindset cut to the heart of the matter. In essence, Jesus asked, “What is the loving thing to do?” Would love help a son that fell into a well? Would love pull an ox out of a hole in the ground? Would love walk away from a man with dropsy when healing was possible? We must be careful that our rules and regulations do not become a hindrance to loving others. After all, Jesus said that to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves is a summary of the whole law (cf. Matthew 22:36-40).

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The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 10:25–37 (ESV)

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We always try to justify ourselves. We go to great lengths to explain why we make the decisions that we do and why we are rarely, if ever, wrong. The lawyer who spoke to Jesus in this passage was no different. He knew the requirements of the law, but he wanted to justify himself by defining the word “neighbor” in narrow sense. So, when he asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus’ response was surprising.

In response to the lawyer’s question, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The shocking elements of the story are that the religious leaders failed to show compassion towards a man in need and a Samaritan man is the hero. Samaritans and Jews did not get along (cf. John 4:9). The Samaritans were half-Jew and half-Assyrian as a result of intermarriage after the Jewish exile at the hands of the Assyrians. The southern Jews, who had maintained their Jewish bloodlines, thought of them as second class. The lawyer who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” certainly did not think of the Samaritans as his neighbor.

Jesus’ parable taught the lawyer that we should love and show compassion towards all people, regardless of race, religion, social background, or anything else. We too must learn this lesson. Who is our neighbor? What group(s) of people do you find it hard to love? Jesus will not allow us to justify being unloving towards others. May God soften our hearts to love all people as he loves them.

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Not to Offend

Obol in the Mouth of the Fish

The Miracle of the Obol in the Mouth of the Fish (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:24–27 (ESV)

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We are not told the identity of the tax collectors who approached Peter. Some argue that they were likely collecting a Roman civil tax. However, it seems more likely, and is the traditional view, that the collectors were Jewish and that they were visiting the residents of Capernaum (like Peter and Jesus) to collect a temple tax that would have been sent to Jerusalem in time for Passover. When asked if Jesus would pay the tax, Peter affirmed that he would. We then read Jesus’ words to Peter about the tax.

Jesus asked Peter if kings taxed their own sons. Of course they do not. They tax those outside of their own families. The royal family would not pay taxes to the king. Jesus then replies, “Then the sons are free.” The point is that the true King and his family do not pay taxes. Of course, Jesus and his disciples are in view here. Jesus is the true King and the disciples are his children. However, Jesus explained to Peter that they would pay the tax, not out of obligation, but in order not to offend.

As followers of Christ, the disciples were free from the authority of the Jewish religious leaders and the religious system of the temple. With Jesus, the temple system was finding its fulfillment (cf. Matthew 12:5-6, 41-42; Mark 7:19). Yet, it was important not to offend in order to show love and make it possible to speak the truth of the gospel.

As Christ’s followers in the world today, we also must be willing to give up our rights for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 8-9). We do this so that we can gain every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and so that we can show the same kind of love towards others that the Lord has shown to us. May God help us to put his plans before our own and to put others before ourselves.

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