"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself" --Luke 10:27
Week 9 (March)
In the latter third of the 20th century, the heretical cultists calling themselves Jehovah's Witnesses had astounding success in Italy. They now claim to have upward of 100,000 adherents in that country. [ PowerPoint presentation on Jehovah's Witnesses ]
To push their distorted doctrines to the Italians, Jehovah's Witnesses often emphasize that the the members of their group look after each other -- not only spiritually, but also in practical, material ways. Again and again in their relentless door-to-door canvassing, the Jehovah's Witnesses pound home this point.
That the Jehovah's Witnesses continually emphasize this caring ministry evidently means they've discovered it to be a good selling point in Italy. It would also indicate the longing people feel to belong to a loving, caring group.
The response Jesus gave to a crafty lawyer asking about the way to receive eternal life wasn't a shallow, off-the-cuff answer. That day, Jesus reached back into the Old Testament and said the two greatest commandments are: 1) To love God with our entire being, and 2) To love our fellow human beings (Mark 12:29-31).
When Jesus quoted these two commandments from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, He knew He was speaking to humanity's greatest need. We were created to be loved and to give ourselves to loving.
Sin has, however, so distorted the world that these two commandments have an alien ring to them. Instead of love, the world is full of hate, of jealously, of prejudice, and of fear.
To the idealists among us that condition doesn't seem all that natural, however. In fact, political leaders have tried all kinds of ways to eradicate hate and prejudice and jealousy. In their more candid moments, however, they will admit that their methods have failed.
For example, Joseph Califano granted an interview to the Los Angeles Times toward the end of his tenure in Washington as head of what is now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In that interview, printed June 14, 1979, Califano said, "I don't know how to solve (racial tension). I'm puzzled by the fact it persists, but it's there . . . I don't think it's a problem we can solve with government programs."
Califano was right. Hate or prejudice can't be solved by government programs. But that doesn't mean these attitudes can't be eliminated. In fact, Jesus said they had to be eliminated from the life of the true Christian. Jesus said the two most important requirements of Christianity are: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27)
It was the second of those Great Commandments that the First Century Jewish lawyer tried to use to trap Jesus. In response, Jesus stood His ground, insisting that the worship of God was only one side of the coin. The other side is the Good Samaritan type of involvement in practical, caring ministries.
Some years ago Barbara and I belonged to the Overland Park (Kansas) Church of the Nazarene. At that time, the church's letterhead and publicity included the phrase "a fellowship of concern."
What that local church leadership was trying to say, of course, is that our love for God must be accompanied by an increasing sensitivity to human needs.
This is the perfect love that we preach about: perfect in its intensity toward God and perfect in its all-inclusiveness as regards other human beings.
We do not keep these two commandments to provide a selling point for Christianity. We keep them simply because that's the kind of radical lifestyle to which Christ calls us as we try to live for Him in a world that is sin-infested, pleasure-bloated, and on an ego trip.
These devotional thoughts by Howard Culbertson appeared in the March 2, 1980 edition of Standard
Howard Culbertson, Southern Nazarene University, 6729 NW 39th, Bethany, OK 73008 | Phone: 405-491-6693 - Fax: 405-491-6658
Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: June 26, 2012 | URL: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/perfect.htm
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