The Greatest Commandment: God, Others, and Self

Sometimes I hear the greatest command summed up as “love God and love others”. That misses the only person in the whole world who isn’t included in those two categories, self. But Jesus did include loving yourself in the greatest commandment,

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-38

Paul echoes this in Ephesians 5:28-29, “28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church”

God doesn’t want us to get so caught up in loving ourselves that we get self-centered and fail at the first two greatest commandments in Jesus lists. I do wonder though, if we avoid talking about the love of self for fear people won’t handle it very well. What can happen is people end up feeling pretty beat up, guilty and lacking a biblical concept of God’s love for them and a healthy love for themselves. Maybe that is just so obvious that I am the only guy in the room that hasn’t picked up on that.

Freeing Up Time to Overcome the World – Get Rid of Foolish and Harmful Talking

Brian’s comment got me thinking…what if we took these words from Paul (below) seriously…if all the hurtful, harmful and attacking things said by Christians to other Christians on the internet (even in person) were put aside and that time used for real, useful and biblical kingdom purposes? I cannot help that more lost people would be saved, the church would be healthier and the world would have a better opinion of Christians. So, why not?

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” – 1 Tim 1:3-7

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Eph 4:29-32

These aren’t suggestions. These are imperatives/commands. What is more, God tells us what happens if we don’t obey this. We grieve the Holy Spirit and wonder away from the truth. I cannot imagine anyone wanting those consequences…and yet the hurtful things continue to be said. How much love do we have for those we disagree with?

Stuff I Love

I love my wife and kids.

I love coming home to them and yell out Extreme Makeover Home Edition Style, “Hello friends and family” and then get all kinds of hugs and kisses.

I love when our Sunday worship goes up a few levels of volume and there is no doubt God is being praised

I love when God is praised in small and quiet ways as well.

I love seeing old friends, especially people who I didn’t know turned to Christ since the last time I had seen them.

I love when people accept an invitation to come on Sunday and actually show up!

I love when people get sharpened in their faith.

I love when God’s Word is read and lived out.

I love when I find something new in scripture that had never jumped out at me before or something old that is read in a new light.

I love when we have to add chairs in a Bible class as people keep coming in the door.

I love when I see long time Christians, nearing the end of their lives, who are at peace with things.

I love when I see family I haven’t seen in a long time.

I love hearing about kingdom work taking place, lives being changed, God being honored, and eternal differences being made.

I love when hungry kids get fed, when criminals rehabilitate, and when grace and mercy are poured out on the undeserving.

I love meeting people whose faith is greater than my own and when they stretch me.

I love God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit

I love when disagreement doesn’t keep brothers and sisters in Christ from acting like brothers and sisters in Christ.

I love when people are baptized into Christ…that never gets old.

I love lists that should just keep going on and on but finally come to an end on a high note!

Who/What do you love…

Law, Grace, and Love – Think in Terms of Wedding Vows

It is clear as can be that the New Testament contains commandments and the Old Testament contains grace. So it is hard to draw lines between them when it comes to what God was looking for in each. I tend to think he was looking for the same thing in both testaments. He was looking for people who were seeking him. Before I chase that rabbit too far, let me get to the point of why I am writing this post. A helpful analogy came to me a few days ago that I thought I would share when it comes to commands, obedience, and our motivation to follow God. It is like wedding vows. I was serious about them when I made them. I live my life to uphold them. But I don’t wake up every morning pouring over the things I promised to do on our wedding day in order to make sure I don’t miss anything. Yet, I find myself doing what I promised I would do because I love my wife so much.

I think the same is true of our relationship with God. We don’t have to memorize a long list of rules to keep. If we love Him we will be trying to give him our best each and every day. When we slip up, he loves us enough to keep us around. I think that is called grace.

One Very Moving Video From Gulfcoast Getaway

This is one of the most moving videos I have ever seen. Flashbacks to elementary school and “where the red fern grows” on this one. I kept wondering what that watery, salty substance was coming from my eyes was…get a hankey ready before you click this one.

To sponsor a child through Compassion International click their website here.

Gospel of John 13 – Does Jesus Really Want me to Wash Feet?

John doesn’t give us the Last Supper/institution of the Lord’s Supper but he does give us the “rest of the story.” It was not uncommon in their day to enter a home for a meal and expect to have your feet washed by someone in the lowest position, usually a slave. The point was, doing that was for someone of a lower status. To take it upon yourself would be like going into a 5 star restaurant today, asking the waiter to sit in your seat, which tables he is serving and then pay for his meal while handling his tables. We just don’t typically think like that. In reading John 13 you wonder if the question on the minds of the disciples upon entering the upper room was “who is going to lower himself and do the feet washing here?” (Not an intended parallel by John as John doesn’t even mention the upper room but still kind of ironic). They all came to the same unspoken and yet very real conclusion, “Not me!” Jesus was going to show them something about who he was that would point them one step closer to what the cross itself was all about.

It was not unusual for the disciples to jokey for honor and position. They had once argued over who was the greatest when the greatest was in their midst. Now they get their feet washed by a king. His foot washing was the outward expression of the inward feelings we learned about a few verses earlier, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” Jesus took on the role of a servant and washed all 24 feet in the room. 4 of those feet belonged to people who would either betray or deny him in just a matter of hours but he washed those too. Jesus was not in this to bring honor to himself or to uphold a lofty position in this world. He knew true honor came from being a servant.

In the last verses of the foot washing story Jesus leaves them with a warning and a blessing.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” – John 13:12-17

If you flip that around Jesus is saying, if you refuse to do this for others you are claiming to be greater than I am. No one would be willing to say such a thing but if we refuse humility that is exactly our prideful declaration to the world. So the implication is we better let the foot washing commence! Obviously we don’t need to have our feet washed today like those did who walked dirty roads in sandals. But the concept is paralleled in other ways today. In what ways should we lower ourselves to meet the needs of others? How do we see people in a way that is devoid of status, power, prestige, and all the other things that blind us to what is really important and valuable about another person?

Does Jesus really want us to wash feet? In a way he does. He wants us to live out parallel acts, in whatever form necessary, that lower ourselves and recognize the worth of those around us. Notice the last thing he says in verse 17. Blessings will result. I cannot remember a single time I have served another person that I wish I had stayed home. Service results in blessing. How have you seen Christians humble themselves through acts of loving service?

Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning Review Using Greek Moods

I thought I would try a little something different to give you an idea of how good Manning’s new book, The Furious Longing of God, really is. Here is a review categorized by Greek moods:

Indicative – The book was a little hard to get into at first. His style takes some adjusting. My wife read the book as well and had a little difficulty until about the halfway point and then she enjoyed it much better. Manning tends to be a little choppy, the chapters are short and it is a quick read. But if you really digest what is there the read could take much longer as Manning is able to chock more meaning into as few of words as anyone I have read. His message of God’s love and longing for his people is unmistakable and it is difficult to walk away from this read without feeling an inherent sense of self-worth and appreciation for God’s view of us. There are several stories and illustrations from this book that will be with me the rest of my life. What is more, he doesn’t stick with how God views us…he also moves from the response that should elicit in us toward others.

Imperative – Go and buy a copy of this book. Read it. Apply it. Live it. Understand God that much more.

Subjunctive – You may or may not like the first few chapters of the book due to his style. If you read this book you may want to follow it up by reading Raggamuffin Gospel. That might just be as good of a read as the Furius Longing of God.

Optative – May you be blessed by your reading of this book. May you go to the link above and purchase many books from amazon during your visit.

This book was good enough that my wife is going to let someone borrow it this Sunday. I think it is going to make the rounds at church.

Summing Up the Law and the Prophets in One Post

Love

Matthew 22:37-40

God is Love

How much better can you start your day than time with your sweetheart and then going to chapel and explaining love to 100 pre-k to 8th graders in 5 minutes or less?

I want to share two verses that you all know very well but I think are at the heart and soul of love. By the way, this does not reflect the content of my talk to the kids!

1 John 4:7-11 – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Love is not an attribute of God on par with omnipresence, omniscience, etc. Those things describe God. Love is different because God is love. A man can be tall or short, large or small but those things have a different quality than to say that man is alive or has life. Both can be true descriptors but the quality is different. Love is different than how much God knows or how long he has existed, or where he is located in space and time. Love is the very core of who God is.

When Jesus was asked what the most important part of the whole Law was he didn’t point to a commandment or an ordinance. He didn’t point to any of God’s covenant initiation stories.  He pointed to love.

Matthew 22:36-40 – “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘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. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What does it mean for all the Law and Prophets to hang on these two commandments? The word hang, κρεμαννυμι (kremanumi), is a word that is typically used for something that physically hangs on another (eg – Gal 3:13). To hang on something is to depend on it.

“As objects hang on a nail, and falls if the nail does not hold, so that they are essentially dependent on it, so the details of moral conduct or individual requirements of the Law are dependent on the law of love…It means that the love of God is seen to be the sustaining basis of all human attitudes and actions.” TDNT, 3, 920.

If the nail of love slips from the wall all that it holds will tumble with it. Loveless obedience is not anchored in who God is because God is love. When Kittel can give you a warm and fuzzy Valentine’s Day you know you are a nerd.

Vegetable Soup for the Soul

In the midst of all the grief and emotions of last week we were sitting with Missy’s parents in our living room. We decided it was time to eat, even though none of us really felt all that hungry. After discussing some possibilities we decided we wanted some vegetable soup. As Missy’s mom got ready to go to the store to get the ingredients we received a phone call from a friend at church. They told us to have a look on our door step and that something had been left for us. Would you believe it was a container of hot vegetable soup?