When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
In a moment of bloated arrogance John Lennon once said, ‘The Beatles are more famous than Jesus’. He was even further off the mark when he said, ‘Imagine there’s no Heaven’, but he was absolutely on the money when he sang, ‘All you need is love’.
Surprisingly, Jesus did not say that much about love. Perhaps he simply preferred to see his whole life as a wordless proclamation or gift of love. The few things he did say about love however, are all golden nuggets. He calls us to love our enemies (Matthew 5: 43), he taught his disciples to love one another (John 13:35) and teach those who follow him to continue in that love (John 15: 9). He saw himself as God’s ‘love-child’, as his love gift to the world (John 3:16).
In this story we see Jesus answering the testing question of a lawyer, ‘Which is the greatest commandment?’ The Pharisees were obsessed by commandments. They had rules and regulations to govern every part of their lives. Religion, food and drink, family, relationships, business-life, all were governed by rules, by a defining sense of right and wrong. They had religious morality in their blood. Still today we tie religion up with a sense of morality. As a vicar, people often bring their children to me for baptism or want them to enter our church school, many saying that they want them to grow up with a sense of ‘right and wrong’.
The problem with morality is that it is often the midwife of guilt and failure. Rather than including people into a community of goodness it casts us out into a place of condemnation. Morality can be very judgemental, harsh and punishing.
Here we see Jesus rising above the rule book of morality and talking on a higher plain about something softer, kinder, and purer. He is talking about loving God, loving our neighbour and even loving ourselves (sometimes the most difficult of all).
I have lots of neighbours, friends, family and colleagues that I enjoy loving. I like them, they like me and return the love that I give them. The problems start when I try to love the ones who don’t love me. The one who says things about me, who competes with me at work and has very different ideas than me in church. Is this where true love ends or is it where true love begins?
The sort of love Jesus talked about has a twin sister. She is called forgiveness. The only people we can ever forgive are those who take from us, tell lies about us and hurt us.
On the great hundred day journey of finding, following and becoming like Jesus, love is a cairn. A great pile of rocks standing out on the hillside marking the path. If you are still trying to find him then his self-offering of love is a cairn to draw you on.
If you feel you have found him or are getting close then his teaching about love will guide you in the next step of following. If you are following and wanting to become like him, then the great beacon like cairn of his love shows you how to do it.
So where are you going to receive his gift of love today?
So how are you going to walk in his love today?
So who are you going to love today?
Because all you need is love,
Love is all you need.
Help me to love you today,
With all the fullness of my heart,
With all the depth of my soul,
And with all the conviction of my mind.
Help me also Lord,
To love my neighbour,
And to love myself.
That love might grow,
In me, and for me,
And through me.