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Love: key to “all the Law and the Prophets”

February 6, 2024
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Daily Scripture

Matthew 22:37-40

37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being [Deuteronomy 6:5] and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself [Leviticus 19:18]. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Jewish rabbis debated: were all commandments equal or were some greater than others? Asked about that, Jesus chose two as the greatest. The first was Deuteronomy 6:4: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.” He added Leviticus 19:18: “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus said the point of all “the Law and the Prophets” is to lead us to love God and neighbor more fully. God’s love is our faith’s central truth.

  • Jesus said every key Bible principle, all the “truths” we know about what God wants (if they are genuinely true), “depend” on the two commands he quoted. What do you believe made these two commands so foundational in Jesus’ thinking, teaching and living? Can you recall any time when some “truth” you held, something you thought was right, led you to love God or some of your neighbors less, maybe even without realizing it?
  • Our humanity makes it hard for us to love ourselves, and therefore others, with God’s unwarranted, transforming love. But God calls us to continually move toward that kind of love, for our own sake and the sake of others. What has stopped you or made it hard for you to love yourself or someone else persistently and constructively? How might you love more fully?
Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for loving me just as I am, and too much to let me stay as I am. Help me to recognize the times in my life when I need to relentlessly extend your love to those around me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

Although this passage is about love, I’m going to open with some thoughts about one of the greatest movies of the 90s: Office Space. The film encapsulated many of the frustrations Gen X faced in the workplace, including unclear expectations and the tendency to judge attitude over results. It also single-handedly revived the bright red stapler industry.

In one iconic scene, Joanna, a server at Chotchkie’s, is pulled aside by her manager Stan to talk about her 15 pieces of flair. All servers are required to wear at least 15 pieces of flair to express themselves. Brian, another server, has elected to wear 37 pieces of flair to better express himself. While Stan does not mandate that Joanna adds additional flair to her work uniform, he strongly suggests that choosing to do the bare minimum (in this case, 15 pieces of flair) reflects poorly on her. In a later scene, Joanna expresses her frustration with the ambiguity, noting that if Stan wanted her to wear 37 pieces of flair, he should have set the minimum to 37 pieces of flair.

Reading the stories about the Pharisees today, with everything we know about Jesus and Christianity, makes them look foolish and unrelatable. That’s not entirely wrong—but after watching Office Space, I can see where they’re coming from. Being held to a standard when you don’t know exactly what that standard is, much like Joanna receiving the suggestion of wearing more than 15 pieces of flair, can be frustrating. While the Pharisees did lord their piety over other less religious people, their original reason for doing so may be more relatable than you think.

The question I think the Pharisees set out to answer was: what, exactly, does our God require of us? What the question morphed into over the years was: what, exactly, do I not need to do while still considering myself a good person? Today, much like the Pharisees, we often search for those rare or mythical scenarios where we’re required not to love. We like to imagine bad people who deserve to be hated—or worse—and we like to imagine that we should be the ones to punish these bad people.

Jesus made a point of saying that love doesn’t have limits. Should we receive sinners and invite them to eat with us (Luke 15:2)? Should we welcome the aliens in our land to live as the citizens among us (Leviticus 19:34)? Should we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44)? It’s easy to justify not doing those things, and there are some good reasons not to do them in some situations, but finding the places where love stops runs counter to the spiritual exercise.

The point of Jesus’ words, saying that all of the Bible’s commands can basically be summed up in love, was not to ignore danger or logistics that can make our homes and neighborhoods less loving. Instead, love being the greatest commandment that encapsulates all the others is meant to change us, and in changing us, provide the love that is needed for many of these “others” to become the people you see as polite society. Would you have lunch with a prostitute? Would you stand up for the aliens among us who are looking for a better life? Would you show kindness and help an enemy, and refuse to take joy in their misfortune?

Questions like this can make us uncomfortable because they question our integrity. But the point of Jesus’ words was that there are no limits to love. Holiness would be so much easier if Jesus just set the minimum to 37 pieces of flair, but instead we have a command to love endlessly. We often make up rules to prove to ourselves that we’re loving enough, but the point is that we’re never done growing in love. In this life, we will always be deficient in love, and the most important thing we can do is to always be looking for ways we can love more. That is the point of Jesus’ greatest commandment.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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