I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Matthew 22:34-39 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Greatest Commandment
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
One day an expert in the law approached Jesus and asked a question “to test him”: “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus answered, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Both commandments are in the Hebrew Scriptures—the first in Deuteronomy and the second in Leviticus. After all, Jesus said he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it—or as someone has put it, to fill it full. In fulfilling, filling up, the law in this way, Jesus forever joined love for God and love for persons. In answering the question of the Pharisees—”Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”—Jesus made plain what is most important: Love God and love your neighbor. In the verse following our reading, Jesus makes it clear that all the scriptures are summed up in those two commandments.
Love of God and love for neighbor are two oars rowing the same boat. Whenever you try to separate the two, you are usually ineffective and sometimes even destructive. We have only to look at the religious dimensions of the Middle East conflicts and religious terrorism wherever it occurs. Look back at history and we see time and again people claiming to love God while destroying their neighbor. We have seen the terribly destructive results of hyper-fundamentalism, which claims to love God, yet at the same time destroys the lives of people in the name of God. Whether it is Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Taoist hyper-fundamentalism operating, this claim is illegitimate.
The writer of First John puts it so eloquently, “How can you say you love God whom you have not seen if you cannot love your brother or sister whom you have seen?” Love of God and love of people—the two go hand in hand. They are inseparable.
Notice HOW Jesus called us to love God—with all our HEART, SOUL, and MIND. It isn’t just about how we feel. Instead, it is a love that encompasses all of who we are: the gifts God has given to us, the emotions we feel, the mind and ability to reason and to will, and our souls—the very essence of who we are AND what we do.
Love for Others is Our Response to God’s Love. Jesus tied the two together. He said that the second commandment is like the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It is our offering of praise and thanksgiving. It is the primary identifying trait of a Christian. The apostle Paul really makes love a kind of acid test of our faith. He wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (I Corinthians 13:1) One of our hymns says it eloquently: “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Here are some good questions for meditation today: Am I loving? Have I truly heard and do I really live Jesus’ summary of all the scriptures?
There is a lot of theology woven in to hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “The Gift of Love”. I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. Listen to this hymn on SoundCloud.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
“The Gift of Love”
Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.
Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.
Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.