Love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself

(Matthew 22:34-46)

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

October 23, 2011

 

 Let me test your knowledge on the commandments of God. Do you
remember how many commandments God gave to Moses?   Did somebody say Ten?   Well that is the number of commandments that
were carved on the stone tablets.  Are there any other guess? There were actually 613 commandments given to the people of Israel.  In all 613 commandments, 248 were positive commandments, “Thou shall” and 365 negative, “Thou shall not”.  That is a lot of commandments to keep track
of isn’t it!!!

 In today’s Gospel, we learn that the Pharisees could not just let
Jesus go. Jesus is a pain in their neck. They just couldn’t find any reasons to
convict him of any ground for blasphemy and treason.

 In Chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew verses 34, a lawyer asked
Jesus, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment?” there were a lot
to chose from.   The lawyer was testing Jesus to see if he knew the correct answer.  And he did.  Jesus answered him like other great teachers of the faith had always done.  He said: “Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, this is the
greatest commandment.”  And then he added,   “And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Why do you think Jesus said that these were the greatest commandments?  It is because Jesus knew
that if we could keep these two commandments, we would not have any trouble keeping the others. If we love God with all our being, all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind and love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we won’t have any trouble keeping all the other commandments – and most specially we will not have a problem with the big 10 – the ones that include things like “Do not steal,” or “Do not murder” or “do not covet or
desire the things you neighbor has”.

 Our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate with his answers. Knowing
that the Pharisees were referring to the Shema of which every Jew knew by
heart. Jesus quoted the Old Testament Law in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” In other words, you shall love God totally with all your being. And in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” That is, you shall love your neighbor totally as you love yourself.


Everything that Jesus said, not only in the Law but also in the Prophets, turns on this hinge of ‘You shall love.” These words of Jesus put all 613 little
rules and codes and norms of our lives and church into perspective. If what
Jesus says is correct- that above all we are to love totally, both God and our
neighbor-then everything else is secondary.

There is no question about loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds. A person can easily say, “I love God no matter what. I will always praise Him, exalt his name, receive him as my personal Lord and Savior and believe will see him in the resurrection of my life.” But Jesus did not end there. He didn’t say that is the only greatest commandment. He said, “And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these hang all the laws and the prophets.” You see, while we may love God with all our minds, hearts and souls, it very important and is a requirement that we also love each other otherwise we have not loved God at all. In short, Jesus is saying, “Behold, the old is gone and the new has come.” He made things simple for us. While it is easy to the former and seems difficult to do the latter, Jesus is telling us that there is nothing impossible with God. Our inward love of ourselves becomes an outward grace when we share them to our neighbors. It has to be a flowing river of love. You cannot keep it to yourself alone, it has to be shared, then and there we have loved God just as we love our neighbors and ourserlves.

Our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to feel good about ourselves. By loving ourselves, we display respect to our outer and inner being. Everything has to begin from ourselves for how can you respect and love others if you do not know how to respect and love yourself.  It is this
parts of the commandment that human struggle with. While we may have areas where we need to improve, it is important that we keep pressing forward, getting up each morning and doing our very best to assure our love with God. He may not be pleased with every decision we make, but he is pleased with us. He wants us to be secure and have healthy self-images by not focusing on our faults and weaknesses. Sometimes when we make mistakes, we become so extremely critical of ourselves and live with the nagging feeling that blames. God knows we are not perfect, He knows our weaknesses, faults and wrong desires and He still loves us! He only wants us to recognize that and be ready to repent and sin no more.

One of the worst things you could do is to go through life being against yourself. This is a major problem today. Many people have a war going on inside themselves. They don’t really like who they are. “Well, I’m slow, undisciplined, not smart as other people are.” People focus on their weaknesses, not realizing that this negative feeling is a root cause of many of their difficulties. They can’t get along in relationships, they’re insecure, they don’t enjoy their lives and it’s largely because they’re not at peace with who they are.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Notice, the prerequisite to loving others is to love yourself. If you don’t have a healthy respect for who you are, and if you don’t learn to accept yourself, faults and all, you will never be able to properly love other people.

You can’t give away what you do not have. If you do not love yourself, you’re not going to be able to love others. But if you recognize that God is working on you, and in spite of your flaws and weaknesses, you can learn to accept
yourself. Then you can give that love away and have healthy relationship.

When you make mistakes, simply go to God and say, “Father, I’m sorry, I repent. Help me to do better next time.” Then let it go. Don’t beat yourself up for two weeks or months. Shake it off and move on. Turn around you and say to your neighbor, “I love you with the love of the Lord and keep those smile shining.”

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