Monday, May 15, 2006

The Greatest

This is the text of a video narration I put together for Sunday. The video was just me getting ready in the morning, hopefully reinforcing the point about loving God every moment. I owe a lot of the ideas to Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, as they informed my approach greatly. Here she is:

The Shema was and is the greatest creed of Torah, the Jewish law. Every single night before bed, and every single morning when they awake, an observant Jew would recite the words of the Shema…

Shema Yishra’el Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad...

“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

This creed is central to the Jewish faith. It is point A and point Z. It is the starting blocks and the finish line. It’s the bare minimum of what one needs to know to be a good Jew. Yahweh alone is God…love him with everything you have.

All Jews know that the Shema is very important, but there was no consensus in Judaism of what was THE most important aspect of Judaism. A first century Rabbi named Hillel was challenged by a Gentile to summarize the entire Jewish law while the Gentile stood on one leg. Since Rabbi Hillel didn’t know how good this guy’s balance was, he knew he had to keep it short. He said “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”

Another first century Rabbi named Jesus was asked many questions of this nature as well. After being grilled about taxes and marriage at the resurrection, Jesus was still doing pretty well; his answers may not have pleased everyone, but the average person was amazed at his answers.

So a teacher pops the big question. He likely doesn’t have a right answer in mind…rather, he hopes that Jesus’ response will either be so brilliant that it answers all of his questions, or that it will be so wrong that Jesus will get himself into some serious trouble. The question was simple; “Rabbi, what is the greatest commandment in Torah?”

Jesus recites the very same words, the words he recites every morning and every night; the words of the Shema: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Yes! The Shema is the greatest commandment in the Law…I had a sneaking suspicion!

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus did two very important things to the Shema by answering this way. He defined it as the greatest commandment in the whole Law, and He modified it; he added to it.

So the words these Jews recite at least twice a day are maybe even more important than they had thought. But these weren’t the only words they needed to remember. Loving God alone is the greatest commandment, but there’s another commandment that’s a lot like it; Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus is saying that there’s no way to divorce the two ideas: if we love God, we’re doing the best thing there is, but our love for God had better lead us to love the people he has created. Love for God without love for people is self-righteousness, bigotry and intolerance.

But if we love people, we’d better love the God who made them. Love for people without love for God is a chasing after the wind: incomplete, incoherent and ultimately unfulfilled.

So if this is the greatest thing we can do; this loving God and loving others thing, let’s think of ways we can do it. Think about what your average day looks like. How can you love God and others in it?

Can you love God and notice his presence in making the bed or brewing some coffee? In getting the kids ready for school? In running errands all day? In sitting at your desk, working away? During the daily commute?

God’s presence saturates this world, and is never more evident than in other people. The opportunities to live out Jesus’ creed are endless. Are the things you fill your days with opportunities to live out this Jesus Creed, or are they just filler, passing the time between here and eternity?

Let eternity invade your life today. Jesus has told us and showed us what is most important. The greatest expression of love is giving up your life for your friends. Jesus did it; not just when he died, but every moment of his life.

Can we do the same? Can we follow Jesus in loving God and others? Let’s learn how together. After all, that’s what we’re here for.


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