In Mark 12:28-31, “one of the teachers of the law” asked Jesus a wise question (in my opinion) about what the greatest commandment “of all” is. I think this was a great question to ask and was asked to the right person. If he hadn’t asked I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t have said this very important thing and maybe we wouldn’t have known it today, two thousand years later. I say this because I listened to a sermon by Eric Ludy recently on the praying church: he was emphasizing ‘asking’ and gave some Bible quotes to go along with that including the popular “ask and it shall be given to you.” In reference to prayer and what Mr. Ludy said; God wants us to ask Him all our needs and requests even though He can do it anyway. He knows what this world and each person in it needs but He is seriously expecting us to ask.
The question posed by the teacher seems to me like asking ‘Jesus how do we pass your exam?’. This is an ‘exam’ set intently by the creator of the universe, to sift man’s mind and soul for eternal life with Him. When Jesus answers the teacher, He doesn’t scold him nor withhold the truth to make him suffer. In the loving nature of the saviour, Christ directly gives the teacher the answer, freely offering him a pass. I imagine the subject of the exam being “How to live life right” or “How to gain eternal life” or “How best to serve God in your lifetime” or any other variation along those lines. Isn’t that what we were created for? I believe so. Created to know God’s true nature intimately, where out of that knowing we become who we are meant to be, doing what we are meant to do. I believe that’s hugely to do with this teacher’s question and the answer he received. I applaud this teacher for reflecting on vital things such as salvation and wanting to serve God, and then asking about God’s commandments. I am thankful he asked because Jesus answered not only him but also the whole world, the future sons and daughters of the Living God.
The focus of this post will be on the second part of Jesus’ answer. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” This is very important and in a different part of the Bible someone else rightly asked Jesus ‘who is my neighbour?’. Put simply, your neighbour is everyone and anyone including your family members, yes even your mum and dad. And what is love? 1 Corinthians 13 tells us exactly (Hollywood knows nothing, this is the real true deal). “…4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails..” NKJV
It’s simple. If we love God (1st important commandment) we are supposed to do the 2nd most important commandment. This may sound a bit forceful but in the end, it’s for our own good, you don’t need to trust me on this but trust the loving God. We were created to do things as our creator intended through which we receive all he intends us to receive. Trust God that He commanding us to love our neighbour is not a punishment nor any sort of burden. It’s a blessing really.
God would like us to show 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 to everyone we meet, all the time. No judgements and no questions asked. Your neighbour made you angry? Keep showing that never-failing love. Your neighbour betrayed you? Spilled your secret? Stabbed you in the back? Or in the heart? Shattered it into a million pieces? Humiliated you, hurt you, made fun of you? Your mum doesn’t understand you? Unfair rules at home? Your friend isn’t treating you quite so friendly? What exactly has happened between you and your neighbour that doesn’t make you feel like giving that 1 Corinthians 13 love? What does God still say? Does it sound impossible? Maybe you think it’s human nature to react in an ultimately unloving way, after all that person deserves it for what they have done to you. Well if you are a person of faith and a true believer in Christ, can you think of someone who didn’t deserve love because of what they did but God personified everlasting love to them anyway? If that person is you, do you think that love changed your life, changed what you think of yourself, your destiny and course of eternal life? Yes it did. It did for me. Jesus is God’s love personified to us. (Jesus is not only this but more on that later I guess). Jesus himself said ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” 1 John 15-13. Read a bit above that and the words “commandment” and “love” are present, as well as Jesus saying “follow my example of love that I’ve shown you” (para-phrased).
Not sorry but here is a harsh reality for us: it’s not about you. Your feelings are not reliable. Of course they are justified in most cases, particularly if your neighbour has hurt you but the Bible says God collects our tears. Shift the focus from your neighbour and tell God about the situation. Cry out to Him and do whatever else you want because God is always there for you. He is always near and always loves you. This is how much he loves us: He became man in the form of Jesus Christ, to exist in the flesh, the very dust he made Adam from. He suffered every human emotion we already go through just so He would know what it’s like- all out of His compassion and everlasting love for us. Hold on to God when you don’t feel like loving your neighbour. Don’t take judgement into your own hands, just keep on obeying God’s commandment. God really loves it when we obey. It’s good to obey and it’s even more fulfilling after we strive to do it in spite of whatever our feelings are.
Here is an amazing secret of the Christian life which I feel I owe you after the last ‘harsh reality’. It’s gold really. This is God-promised truth from His word, the mouth of Christ Himself. Here it is: you are not supposed do it (love in the hard times-in this case) with your own strength. It’s just impossible. God saves the day once again, gives us the answer to pass the exam yet again through His son Jesus Christ. In our weakness, we should rely on Christ’s strength to accomplish it for us. He can accomplish it very easily for us. The Bible says His strength is made perfect in our weakness. It involves obedience but also surrender, trust and honesty. Lay your soul bare before the Lord God, He already knows it, He just wants the effort from you, it’s good to do that because communication is key to attaining a great relationship, God desires you and whatever your expressions are. He wants you to trust Him by being honest with Him. It’s between the two of you and He won’t ever remove His love from you (the Bible again says nothing can separate us from the love of God).
So I encourage you, show your neighbour some love, it will change their life because it is love inspired by God’s immeasurable love to us and I really believe it will do some Spirit-breathed, Godly, specific and timely work in the life of your neighbour. Rely on Jesus. He said He is the vine and we are the branches, apart from Him we can do nothing, including obeying in hard times. Strive to show love always to your neighbour, it’s not about you. Try not to care about yourself so much because God cares for you enormously and overwhelmingly and that’s more than enough. This is how world change begins. By showing someone love that comes from God. I dare say the only way to change the world. It doesn’t matter how big or small you think your action of love is, have faith in the mighty God, it’s not for you to judge but to obey. God knows exactly what to do and He can do what your neighbour needs at the right time through your obedience. Trust in Him.