The 1st and 2nd Greatest Commandments of Christ
The following message was from a sermon I preached not too long ago:
When Pastor Justin asked me to preach, I struggled for some time as to what subject God wanted me to speak about. Once I realized what it was that God placed on my mind and heart some weird things started happening. It was like a rain cloud and a full moon and a lunar eclipse all rose over me in one singular crazy meteorological event.
As many of you know I have been battling this cough/ cold issue for some time now. As my time to speak grew nearer and nearer my illness got worse and worse. For the first time since being with the church I missed a Sunday due to it. And then last Friday, it all came to a head. I had a such a bad coughing fit that it caused me to black out. I hit my head on the foot rest of our couch and then landed on my jaw on the floor knocked out cold. The following day with Katie’s strict direction I headed to the hospital to make sure I wasn’t concussed let alone dealing with a greater illness. And after almost six hours in the ER I left with four prescriptions for an unknown and illness and a concussion.
I tell you all this because it wasn’t clear to me until later that day as to what was going on. A friend of mine from high school had to bring to light for me. She told me that this was only happening because of one reason…the devil was afraid of the message that I was going to bring. She said it best, “plain old spiritual warfare.” After the conversation I said a prayer to the Lord for strength and healing and well…I’m still not 100% but I am here…and so are you and where two or more are gathered so is Jesus…Amen!
With all that being said… today, I would like to talk one of the most notorious four letter words that is used in the English language… I want to talk about LOVE. Yes, that four letter word that sometimes seems to be more frowned upon than many other four letter words that are out in the world today.
Over the centuries the word love has been used many ways.
One person said this about love, “We are all a little weird, and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Thank you Dr. Suess.
A famous rapper and actor named Ice T said, “Passion makes the world go round. Love just makes it a safer place.”
Henry David Thoreau said, “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
This famous philosopher said, “Love is a serious mental illness.” Who is Plato for $1000 Alex?
Victor Hugo, author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserable said this about love: “Love each other dearly always. There is scarcely anything else in the world but that: to love one another.” That sounds familiar…
A famous Civil Rights activist that you may know by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this about love, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
I could read so many more quotes about love, but Dr. King and Victor Hugo both hit the nail on the head when speaking about love. This love that they speak of is the type of love that I would like to discuss today.
Their description of the word love in the Greek vernacular is known as Agape. Agape is the noun form where as Agapao is the verb form. Agapao is a special word representing the divine love of God toward His Son, God’s love towards human beings in general and believers. It is also used to depict the outwardly focused love God expects Christians, Christ followers to show to others.
For many, including myself this is easier said than done. As humans, we are flawed. We only want to associate with those people or things that we like. That are like us and have our same ideologies. That benefit us and the path we see ourselves walking. To love someone or something that is different from us is a hard pill to swallow.
Over the last two decades our world has experienced pain like we haven’t seen in some time. 9/11, War, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Nuclear fallout, genocide, refugees fleeing their homes for fear of death. Our nation has been hurting too. Hurricanes, Police shootings. Mass shootings from schools to movie theaters, to nightclubs. White on white crime, black on black crime, faiths against faiths…
And why is this? I believe it’s because as a people we resist the call to love, even though we are commanded to do so.
In Romans 12 and 13 Paul calls us to put love into action. In Romans 12: 9-10 it says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Paul says we are called to live in harmony with one another. In Chapter 13: 8-10 Paul says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not commit murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Now, I will be the first to admit that showing love for others is not always the easiest thing to do. I will also be the first to admit that there have been so many times when I had the opportunity to show love to others and I completely blew it! Most recently as you know, our country went through an election. And at times I was honestly saddened to see the lack of love shown by our nation but more so by those who claim to be Christians. One of the most precious freedoms we have as Americans is the freedom of speech. And boy have we seen this more prevalent than ever before with social media and the media outlets as a whole… But I ask just because we have the freedom to speak how we feel does that mean we should speak without love? Just because we have the right to believe in what we do believe in or we have the freedom to live our lives the way we want should we act and be without love towards each other?
I think the church and as Christ followers we are blowing it!
If anyone knew this, it was the Apostle Paul, he wrote in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”. This was the same guy who persecuted Christ followers, led the march to throw Stephen off the cliff to be stoned to death…He knew what it was to sin and fall short of the glory of God until that fateful walk to Damascus…
And like Paul, it’s not too late to turn things around. Our God is a God of second chances, and sometimes, third, fourth, fifth chances… and sometimes more… Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus not only show what it’s like to give second chances but to show His love for all through inclusivity. He chooses a tax collector as one of His disciples, he allows a prostitute to wash his feet with her tears and perfume and forgives her of her sins. In Matthew 8 He gives the centurion, a gentile, a second chance and heals his servant. He gave many that were demon-possessed a second chance. A man with leprosy, unclean and sent to live on the outskirts of town to die, was given a second chance and shown love by Christ.
Jesus doesn’t just pick Jews or perfect people to love and heal and forgive, He forgave many, with many different backgrounds and lifestyles.
Jesus tells those that have gathered to hear Him speak in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven…” Christ goes on to say in the next few verses, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Later Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law? He replies in Matthew 22:37-39, “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.’”
You see, Jesus is saying it’s just too easy to love your own people. That it’s too easy to love those who love you. He wants us to love the unlovable. Love those who think differently, love others like God loves His creation. As a people Christ is telling us that no matter who you are, or who your neighbor is we are to love them!
Ironically, these are not new concepts that Jesus is speaking of. He is only bringing to light what is already written in the law. In Leviticus 19:18 God tells the people to love their neighbors as themselves. In Deuteronomy 6:5 we are also commanded to love God with all our heart and soul and with all our strength. It also says in verse 7 that we are to impress this upon our children. All the time! When we are walking along the road, when we are at home, when we lie down and when we get up. The people are told to tie the commandments as symbols to their hands and bind them on their foreheads, to write them down on the doorframes of their houses and gates.
This was part of the Shema. Which was one of the most important passages in the entire Torah. It acted as kind of a creed in early Judaism. Observant Jews would repeat this declaration twice daily.
Suffice it to say, for thousands of years as God fearers and Christ followers we have been commanded to not only love God, but to love each other as well! Thousands of years.
So! Today we must take a moment and look inside. How are we loving one another? Are we just loving those like us? Are we guilty of not living out God’s command for us to love all people? I know it’s not easy. Like I said, I’m guilty. But maybe it’s hard for you to love others because you have never felt a love like this before?
Well, I’m here to tell you that you are loved! God loves you! It says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus loves you, he says in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” No one has, does now, or will ever in the future love you like Jesus has, does, and will.
I know that can be hard to believe sometimes. Sometimes we don’t feel like we deserve that kind of love. And that’s okay…
I want to close in prayer and as I do, if you are looking to find a love like Christ’s or just need some time to come to Christ and ask for help showing His love to others you are more than welcome to come forward and pray at the altar.