The commandment of love
Matthew 22:34-23:12 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing 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 foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked
them a question: 42 “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?”They *said to Him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “Then
how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet”’?
45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” 46 No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.
23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Those in the world are often critical of those in the church. They say that Christians are hypocrites because they do not love as Jesus did and says we should. Look though at what Jesus says about love in today’s text: …when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Part of the reason the world views Christian love as hypocrisy is that, like the lawyer, they ask about love to test us. They don’t want to know what love is. They want to define and dictate love by their own standard. For them what Jesus says in Matthew 7:2 is true: “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” They define love as tolerance yet in their own hypocrisy they are intolerant of those who disagree with them.
Let’s look though, at the love that Jesus says everything else depends on. He says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.” First and foremost, Jesus says we are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. So our love for God is from the heart. It is both emotional and it is genuine and true. Second that we love with our soul means that it is eternal. Also, our soul is spiritual, not natural or physical, so our love is beyond emotion, it is beyond physical, it is a spiritual love. It is beyond natural; it is supernatural. It cannot be comprehended or contained or defined by natural human thought or emotion. Finally to love with our mind means that love is also a decision. Like God’s love for us, our love for Him is to be unconditional. If there is any motivation for our love for God it is that it is a response to His love for us and also that it is a commandment. So our love is a decision of obedience, not motivated by what we will receive. That we love with our whole mind is that we put our love for God and our obedience to Him ahead of any other person or thing we might love. Each of these aspects of love for God, heart, soul and mind must be met and fulfilled, first and foremost before we can do the second thing which is to love our neighbor.
To understand and undertake the love we are to have for others, we need to hear and acknowledge how Jesus says we should love them. He says: “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” We are to love them not as we love God, because nothing or no one is equal to or greater than God. Rather, we are to love them as we love ourselves. 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. That we love at all is only because God loves us. Our love for others is born out of a response to the love of God for us. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love that we respond to, the love that is the foundation of our ability to love is demonstrated in the cross; in Christ dying for our sins. That is how we are loved and that is the basis of the love we are to have for others. The world tries to dictate what our love should look like, but true love looks like Jesus on the cross. If they see hypocrisy it is because they do not see the cross, so they do not know what true love looks like.
The text continues with some additional instruction to believers. It says: Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” Often people in the church today will take note of Jesus criticism of the religious leaders and justify their own criticism and rebellion. Look though at what Jesus says: All that they tell you, do and observe. That religious leaders are not themselves perfect is not a justification for rebellion against either them or God. They, leaders, will answer to God for their actions as will each one who is called by His name. Jesus says: “Do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” There is a responsibility on the part of leaders, but each one is also responsible directly to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and Leader. Each one is responsible to the One who is our Teacher, the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. Jesus says: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Jesus says: “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” Leaders should be servants to those who they lead. But, first and foremost we all should be servants of our Leader and Lord. Even more than humbling ourselves in the sight of people, James 4:10 says: Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. 1 Peter 5:6 says: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you. In Luke 14:11, Jesus says: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Everyone, whoever, not just leaders but each one of us needs to be humble and obedient to God.
Thank You heavenly Father, my true Father and Jesus Christ my Leader and Lord. Thank You Holy Spirit my Teacher and guide. First and foremost I will love You with all of my heart, sould and mind. Because of Your love demonstrated on the cross, I will love others with the same love as I have been loved; with the love demonstrated on the cross. Amen.