What’s More Important: God or Neighbor?

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S (Scripture): Matthew 22:34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, 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. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

O (Observation): How essential are these words from Jesus? Not only does he establish the most important principles for the life of a God-follower, but he does so using commandments that have existed since God’s people were set free from Egypt.

The law-keepers (the Pharisees) think they can trap Jesus into picking one Law above others so that they can trap him into an argument that will expose a weakness in him. They may be expecting him to erase the Law and come up with his own command apart from God.

Much to the dismay of the Pharisees, Jesus does not eradicate the commands of God, but reinforces them. Jesus takes the commands that God’s people have twisted and corrupted for their own advantage, and has reset them as the main thing for all who look to God.

A (Application): How often have we in the church hurt people because of some basic routines and rituals we go through when preparing for worship or education or fellowship? How often have we said, “Oh, we don’t do it that way” or “That’s nice, but let me show you how we do it.” We can learn from one another…that is my hope.

Leaning on the former ways is okay, as long as it doesn’t shut out a new way of thinking about something.

And how many times have we (as the Christian Church) shut out and hurt those who have not “fit the mold” of our “normal” Church-goer expectations? How often have we said or acted in ways contrary to Jesus’ words to love our neighbor?

Instead, many have latched on to the idea that “Loving God” takes precedence OVER “Loving neighbor.” Many have taken the stance that “Loving neighbor” means pointing out “their sin” and lifting up “The Truth.” Aren’t I loving them by helping to correct them and show them the Truth? (No! You’re just being a jerk!)

We all fall short of the glory of God. We all need repentance. And we all can love God and love neighbor by humbly respecting others and listening to one another.

Jesus didn’t say “Love the Truth with your whole heart,” he said “Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.”

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to re-gain focus on the central tenets of loving you and our neighbor. Amen.

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