One of my favorite hymns is, “God of Grace and
God of Glory.” The melody is strong and confident.
The lyrics petition God’s presence and intervention
“for the living of these days” and “the facing of this hour,” so we won’t miss God’s Kingdom goal and
we will not fail brothers, sisters or God.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that hymn these days as I watch the news, read the paper, spend time
on Facebook. It seems to me that we’re living in extraordinary times—times filled with a lot of anger
and finger pointing. This anger, fear and suspicion of others, I think, has turned us around and upside
down. Disoriented, we’ve lost our way as children of God. In many instances, we’ve allowed the
cacophony emanating from individuals, political parties, groups and pundits overcome the Voice of
God’s Holy Spirit.
That Voice, that speaks from God’s heart and reminds us of Jesus’ word, life and ministry. This is the
Voice that tells you and me that there’s a different behavior expected of those who claim Christ, Lord.
It’s a Voice that calls us to remember our roots as people of faith. And it urges us to turn to the pages
of scripture to read Jesus’ prescription for living faithfully.
Matthew 22:34-40, stands as a touchstone for us when we’re confused or uncertain of God’s
expectations about living as his disciples. There we find Jesus in Jerusalem on his final visit there prior
to his arrest, trial and crucifixion. The religious leaders of the day are hounding him, asking all sorts of
questions about who he really is, as well as his family of origin. They query him about God, God’s
Kingdom, the resurrection, those who are worthy to be numbered among the faithful. All of these
questions were not raised by the Temple and religious leaders in an attempt to gain insight into God
and God’s will, however. They were raised in a way they hoped would trick Jesus into exposing himself
as a fraud.
Jesus, however, understood their motives, and he meets every one of their challenges with answers
that reveal God’s truth.
They weren’t succeeding. So, in a last ditch effort to trip up Jesus, a lawyer asks him one question,
“"Which commandment in the law is greatest?" (22:36).
Jesus' answer is clear and easy to recall,“’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 neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and
the prophets.’”
In other words, people who claim the title Christian are called to do two things in life, “Love God. Love
neighbor.” All the commandments, all the rules for faithful living, all the words and teachings of the
prophets can be summed up in these four words, “Love God. Love neighbor.”

The love that Jesus commands us to share, is love that is different than an emotional, butterfly-
producing love we might possess for another. It is a love that is different than saying you love
something—as in you love to eat dark chocolate, or play a game or sport, or listen to a favorite band.
It’s not an emotional kind of love.
The kind of love Jesus is talking about here is a love that takes action in response to the love of God.
“To love God with all one's heart, and soul, and mind, is to choose to respond to God even as God
chooses to love us. Feelings and emotions do not enter into the equation. . .
“In the New Testament, the principle word used for love isagape. Likephilia, or brotherly love, it is a
passionless love.Eros is the word for passion or desire. The latter two are used sparingly in the New
Testament. Agape in the gospels has some connection to emotion, where God cares for God's
creatures and creation.” (Clayton Schmit, Provost of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary)
To love as God as God calls us to love, means loving in a way that is kind and merciful, patient and
generous. Loving God as God calls us to love is our duty as Christians—a choice we make. A kind of
discipline we decide to follow. To love as God calls us to love means looking at our neighbor—friend
and enemy alike—and choosing to love them with compassion and mercy, and without reservation or
interruption. To love as God calls us to love means we choose to love our neighbor next door as well
as the neighbor in Chicago, or the neighbor at the border or on the other side of the world. And we
choose to love them all in the same way as we love others we’re close to. To love as God calls us to
love, is to choose to love the person whom we might find to be disgusting—and love them as much as
we love our best friend. Maybe we don’t want to love them, but to belittle and name call them. Maybe
we don’t feel like loving them, but feelings don’t carry weight when it comes to loving as God calls us
to love. We make the choice to love because God chose to love us first—warts and all—and continues
to choose us, just as he would choose to love the “other” in our midst.
God is love—he breathed life into us in love. God came to us in Christ, and redeemed us through
Christ because he loves us. God loves us so much, he can’t bear the thought of being separated from
us. God visits us through the Holy Spirit in love, calling us to love one another as Christ loved us.
And that’s the kind of power he pours on us for the living of these days. It’s all about love. Love God.
Love Neighbor. On these two commandments, everything depends.

 

 – Pastor Sharon