Monday, February 20, 2012

The Problem with Love--of God, Neighbor, Self . . .

For quite a while now I’ve been studying, and referencing Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees in Matthew 22:34-46, more specifically verses 36-40. It’s so ‘basic’, so ‘simple’, so God-centered—and so difficult apart from God’s grace. Of course, this is ordained by God to highlight our need for His mercy since we are in and of ourselves unable to do it with pure and selfless motives on our own—“…love God…love your neighbor…”

But, because Jesus declared this to be ‘great’ and ‘foremost’ it cannot—must not—be ignored or softened in any way. The sad truth is you and I willfully ignore, soften, and violate these great commands daily, hourly, moment-by-moment without much, if any concern.

What Jesus is commanding is much more than ‘social’ awareness and activism—anyone, and I mean anyone, can muster that up at will. What Jesus was talking about is volitional, self-sacrificing, put others first sort of thinking and acting—in the context of my daily life and routine. That is carried out first and foremost in the context of those physically and relationally closest to me—husband, wife, daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather, cousin, etc. And quite frankly, that’s where it is the most difficult—by God’s design. And, take note that this doesn’t mean we’re exempt from carrying it out in extended contexts just because we haven’t ‘mastered’ it in the family context!!! No, it is within our families where we get to practice—and repeatedly fail, confess, repent, and ‘do over’—so that we are trained and strengthened to take it to others—co-workers, fellow-students, customers, restaurant servers, strangers in the mall, ‘friends’ at church. How else will the world ‘know we are Christians by our love”, hmmmmm?

I’ve come to see that this is foundational in most every counseling situation—the fact that we love ourselves first and foremost when we are commanded to ‘love God’ first and foremost, then ‘love your neighbor’. Take note, there is no Biblical command, not even a hint, of first loving ourselves. But because of our own sinful lusts and desires we find ourselves in conflict with others when our own lusts and desires are placed ahead of our love for God, and our love for our neighbor. And, who is your neighbor? Your wife, your husband, your mother, your father, your daughter, your son . . .

Yip, life is messy, but we have a GREAT God who offers, and promises, to redeem us from our selfish and self-centered ways. And, as Xians we simply don’t have the option to avoid the ‘messiness’ of life—we are called to meet it straight-on, get right in the middle of it. First and foremost for God’s glory and honor, and secondarily for the good and blessing of others—our neighbors.

I hope to have time in the coming days and weeks to share more and invite your thoughts. But, here’s a ‘heads up’, of particular interest to me right now is developing the Biblical basis for and hindrances to us obeying Jesus’ ‘great’ and ‘foremost’ commands.

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