The first portion of the Matthew text reinforces Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The second portion of Jesus words recalls the Word of God in Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Finally, Jesus brings all of these passages together in John 13:34-35 but he adds a slight twist to them. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
In the Old Testament readings as well as Matthew, we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we love ourselves or respect ourselves then we should treat our neighbors in the same manner.
If we want respect and love from others, then we need to show them that same amount of respect and love.
However, Jesus takes this “golden rule” to a new level in John. He calls us to love one another as He himself has loved us. That love is quite different from the love in Old Testament or from Matthew.
His love for us is unconditional, he accepts us the way we are and where we are in life. His words call us to love the world as he loves us so that the world will know we belong to him.
Whew! As I said in sermon a few weeks ago this is tough because we often want to pick and choose whom we want to love and that is not what Jesus did when he walked the earth over 2000 years ago. He brought all kinds of people (sinners, tax collectors, women, thieves, and outcasts) to him in love.
How did Christ do this? He simply trampled the “box” some of his followers (and detractors) wanted to keep him and going to those areas where the sinners, tax collectors, women, etc. were.
As followers of Christ we are called to do the same as part of the Body of Christ which is the Church of God on earth. May we trample our own “boxes” and do as Jesus has commanded us to do.
Pastor Barbara Beale is the senior pastor at St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schroeder