Holy Week #3: A Single-Minded Commitment

Between the time that Jesus entered Jerusalem in that last week and the Feast of Passover, he is recorded as having taught many lessons. In today’s lesson, the expert in the law asked Jesus about the first and greatest commandment.  Jesus answered:

One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question:
“Which is most important of all the commandments?”
“The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

Mark 12:29-31 MSG

I especially like the way Peterson translates our four-fold love for God — passon, prayer, intelligence, and energy — typically heart, soul, mind and strength.

  • Passion – enthusiastic diligence, fervor, zeal
  • Prayer – spiritual communing, conversation
  • Intelligence – reasoning, understanding, mental capacity
  • Energy – vigorous activity, exertion

Jesus reminds us to love God with all we’ve got!  There is no holding back, no reservation, nor is it just an emotional sentiment! We love Him in totality! This first commandment is based on the Shema, which orthodox Jewish people would recite every day. The expert in the law would have definitely recognized this commandment and agreed with Jesus about its significance!

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind,
your whole being, and all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

The second command – your neighbor as yourself – resonates, especially in our current society. Maybe societies in the past were no different in this respect, but it is seems that the pandemic brought out the worst in us in general – selfishness, “me” focus, “my rights.”

You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:18

Loving our neighbors is about surrendering our “it’s all about me” attitude. It’s doing good to others because that’s the way we want to be treated – what we think of as the golden rule. Love is concrete – again, not just an emotional sentiment, but a determination to care for others responsibly.

I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.
If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?
Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You are kingdom subjects. Now live like it.
Live out your God-created identity.
Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Matthew 5:44-48

Who is your neighbor, my neighbor?  Our neighbor is  the most unlikely person – the outcast, the one most unlike us – our neighbor is the person in need of mercy on our path. My husband has often taught this definition of love, “Love is an unconditional, sacrificial commitment to the welfare of another manifested through intentional acts of kindness.” Wanting others to thrive, to flourish – even others very different from ourselves, even others who are still far off from God! It is in our loving those who don’t know Him that we reflect who God is!

[Jesus] asks for a single-minded commitment to God and God alone. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. It is this unconditional and unreserved love for God that leads to the care for our neighbor, not as an activity that distracts us from God or competes with our attention to God, but as an expression of our love for God who reveals himself to us as the God of all people.
It is in God that we find our neighbors and discover our responsibility to them.
We might even say that only in God does our neighbor become a neighbor rather than an infringement upon our autonomy, and that only in and through God does service become possible.

Henri Nouwen, https://henrinouwen.org/meditation/love-god-with-all-your-heart/

My prayer that I will be — and you also will be — rooted and established in love, having power together to grasp how wide, long, high, and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge! Lord, may we be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God – so that your love in us will overflow in love for our neighbors!

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

E. H. Hull
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