A few years ago, Billy Graham answered a letter in his daily newspaper column from someone who was upset that churches and charities don’t pay a cent in taxes. The writer was upset that he had to “pay until it hurts”. In his reply, Dr. Graham said that if all the food banks, homeless shelters, hospitals, community centers, addiction rehabilitation centres and other organizations were forced to close, millions of lives would be hurt. If they did close, governmental agencies would be forced to fill the gap-at enormous cost to taxpayers. He closed his reply with the following words:
“No system is perfect, but I urge you not to turn a blind eye to the good done by the vast number of churches and other organizations who are sincerely seeking to serve others. Christians take seriously Jesus’ command: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.”
When Jesus was asked which Commandment was the most important, it was a loaded question. The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus, but Jesus turned the trap on them. All of the commandments were equal because they were created by God. Jesus used the opportunity to point out that all of the laws that the Pharisees came up with to make certain that the Jews kept the Commandments were not necessary. All of their laws, and all of the Commandments, were summarized by the two Great Commandments that Jesus gave us and the Pharisees: “Love God, and love people”. Both commandments are related and are of equal importance. They are the basics of Christianity.
The employees of nursing homes are a good example of the fact that loving others comes from the knowledge that each person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. They treat the residents with the dignity and respect that the residents deserve. They show their love by doing their jobs to the best of their ability, and by doing so; they show the love they have for the residents. They try to help their neighbours, and by doing so, they are doing what God wants them to do. This love involves denying themselves for the good of others. People don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care.
But what if loving our neighbour means that we need to listen to the world and be engaged with it? There was a time when neighbours helped each other out by having building bees where neighbours came together to build barns or houses. Other times they came together to help each other with the harvest or to care for sick neighbours or elderly parents. Those are examples of loving people as God loved us. The way God knows that we love him is by how we treat people. Whenever we demonstrate kindness, patience or gentleness, we see the Lord’s love at work through us, especially when the other person has been unkind and doesn’t deserve such pleasant treatment. Our relationships with others demand priority over things that won’t last or won’t matter in a few years. If we love God and love people, we will naturally obey the rest of the Commandments. That’s only natural. After all, the two Great Commandments are an example of the Golden Rule.
It is our faith that God loves us that makes us able to love ourselves and therefore be grateful for the gift of ourselves. This awareness of life as a gift is what we mean by loving God. When we love ourselves, we are grateful to God, and this gratitude sets us free to love other people. When we truly love people, we value them as gifts of God.
Jesus’ teaching isn’t about how we feel about God and neighbour, but what we will do. We are to love God with all our lives, including our work. Doing so restricts our activity to the straight and narrow path that God has created for us to walk on. It is the basis of our obedience to God. It shows that our love for God is number one in our lives. Love for God and love for all of those who are made in his image form the backbone of everything God says to us in his word. In the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:10, “Love is the fulfillment of the law”.
- Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
- Exegesis for Matthew 22:34-46. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Matthew Barnett, “Purpose Summed Up”. Retrieved from www.christianity.com/moi/2001/004/july/5.5.html
- Mary Southerland, “And I Love Me”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- MacArthur, John: MacArthur Study Bible NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers: 2006, 2008)
- The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, “Why Don’t Churches Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
- Greg Laurie, “The First and Greatest Commandment”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Les Lamborn, “A Lover of God”. Retrieved from www.rbc.org
- Pastor Bob Coy, “Prioritize People”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Les Lamborn, “Two Rules to Live By”. Retrieved from www.rbc.org
- Charles F. Stanley, “How Can We Love Like Jesus Commands?” Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- The Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, “Love and Listening”. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions: 30th Sunday (A)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Timothy Gardner, O.P., “The Third Commandment”. Retrieved from www.torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5648