Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:34-40, NIV)The first passage was the prescribed Gospel reading for this Sunday, and the second, a companion text from the book of Luke. And, reading them again, I have to ask myself: How much more do we have to complicate it?
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replied, "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " '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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself." "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"... [Jesus said, ]"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:25-29, 36-37, NIV)
God didn't say to only love the neighbors that I like.
Or just the people that I go to church with.
Or just the people that my church is in full communion with.
Or the people who vote my presidential ticket.
Or the people who look like I do, live where I do, or love like I do.
God didn't say that I should only love the folks who worship as I do.
Or interpret Scripture as I do.
Or attend the same worship service that I do.
Or who like the worship music I do.
In fact, Jesus doesn't even indicate in these passages that we should only love the people who know Jesus Christ.
Or even just the people who want to know Christ.
Or his Dad, for that matter.
I am not called to even LIKE my neighbor, let alone approve of her-or-his laundry-list of sins. But regardless of who they are, where they are, and what has happened to them, it seems I am called by God to heal wounds, to provide food and lodging and comfort for those who are hurting, and to show mercy to those who stumble - or those who have been knocked down.
I don't have to like it. But I am called by God to do it.
Lord God, help me to focus my heart and my mind not on what I think others should be doing, but on how I can love you more dearly, and on what I should be doing for my neighbor. If YOU think this stuff is "first-things-first" important, perhaps I should follow Your lead today. Amen.