Sunday, May 18

Loving God and Loving Others

At Quest, we have spent the first part of this year looking at what God intends for the relationship between God and man to look like. To do that, we’ve looked at a bunch of stories from the Genesis and Exodus. We started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and discussed what God’s Plan A was before sin entered the picture. Then, once sin did enter the picture, we looked at what we can learn from the relationships between God and people like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.

Now we’re turning to the New Testament and changing our focus a little bit. In Mark 12:28, a teacher of the law came to Jesus and, impressed by an answer to a previous question, asked Jesus which commandment was the most important. Jesus responded by saying “‘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 mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31). The teacher of the law agreed, then added that these two commandments are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33). Jesus then responds by noticing that the man answered wisely and by saying “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34).

This last exchange is very interesting. Jesus is saying that these two commandments – loving God and loving others – are more important than anything else. They are more important than all of the rituals that are part of our worship, and they are more important than all of the rules and structures that we set up. Not that those things are unimportant, but they are less important than the commands to love God and love others.

Over the next couple of months, we are going to focus on these two commandments and see what we can learn from them. In one sense, they are very simple. We are instructed to love God and love others. In spite of the fact that they appear simple, they are very important. In fact, in another place where Jesus answered this question, he added that “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40). In other words, everything that God commands relates to one of these two items. They are all designed to get us to display love to God and to others.

At the same time, these can be very difficult. What exactly do these commands mean? In English, the word “love” can have a lot of different meanings. So what exactly does “love” mean in this context? How do I show love to God? How do I show love to my neighbor? Who is my neighbor? These are some of the issues we’re going to look at over the coming weeks.

While this has a different focus than our discussions about the relationship between God and people, the topics are clearly related. If we have a relationship with God, then these are the two primary commandments that we should be following. If we are following God, people should see us loving God and loving others. So these topics are going to help us see how we should live out the relationship with God that we have been talking about for the last several months.

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