Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Hebrew Shema: Love God / Love People - June 14th, 2011

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."   Deuteronomy 6:5

Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[d] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[e] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:37-40
History and Context:
If you are new to reading this blog please refer to the History and Context sections of my last two posts, The Hebrew Shema and The Hebrew Shema: Unity, for more information on the passage in Deuteronomy. For all of you who have read those explanations, I simply want to point out that we again see the Lord (Yahweh) and God (El) references combined. This is reinforcing the message of unity that we discussed yesterday. After that comes a passage which Jesus quoted as the greatest commandment in Matthew chapter 22 (also in Luke 10:27 and Mark 12:29-31). As noted before Deuteronomy 6:4-9 was a very popular passage for the jews. It was the first passage that all Jews memorized and they constantly recited it. This is why, when you look at the passage in Mark, you see that the questioner immediately agreed with Jesus. This is the greatest commandment! But Jesus added on a scripture in Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". Jesus often used the concept of neighbor in his teachings. In fact in the popular story of the Good Samaritan, he is answering the question "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29).

The Text:
Jesus combines to commandments, found in two different books of the Law, together almost as one. Often people will seperate these two and make a list:

Important Commandments
1) Love God
2) Love people

But I believe that Jesus was saying something slightly different. This entire passage was an answer to the question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36) He was only asked for one commandment, not two. So why did Jesus give him two commandments as an answer? I believe Jesus was showing him, and now us, that these two commandments are inseperable. Loving our neighbor is a part of loving God. John said:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)
We cannot love God if we do not love our brother, our neighbor. Jesus said the second is like the first, it is the same commandment. Love God, love people, without one we cannot truly have the other. If you say you love God but you hate your brother, you are a liar!

The Challenge:
The challenge is simple; Love people! Find a way to show love towards people today. Above and beyond what you would nomrally do. This is how you can show your love to God. Do it as worship towards God and don't expect anything, not even a thank you, in return. Also remember that the more of a sacrifice it is for you, the more it shows your love for that person.

The Prayer:
Lord, show me how I can love people today. Show me what I can do, above and beyond my normal actions, to love those around me. I love you Lord, and through that love I know that I also must love people, because you love people. Help me to love people in everything I do today. Help me to find opportunities that I may normally miss. Help me to control my actions when I am tempted to act outside the realms of love. I want to be an example of your love for people, so help me to love people. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!

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