Mark 12:28-34 New International Version (NIV)
The Greatest Commandment
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”
The problem with the English language is that it has only one word for love and people use the word love for everything – they love their dog, their partner, their parents, their children, they love a place, or a thing, or a person…..
I think that just having one word takes the meaning right away from the feeling when it’s said with such emotion.
I love Cadbury’s chocolate but hopefully that isn’t the same love I have for my children.
The Ancient Greeks weren’t vague they had several words for love.
Philia (fillia) brotherly love - or friendship love. This is the kind of Love we have for our friends, or family.
Eros, which is a passionate love which we have for our partners.
Agape love, which is a true love, an unconditional love - the kind of love to which no conditions are attached. You love no matter what.
Jesus wants us to love everybody with an agape love, an unconditional love, like the love that God has for all his children.
If only we could achieve that goal, our world would be such a different place.
But loving isn’t always easy, even love within our family.
My mother used to say ‘I love you, but I don’t always like you’. I think if we are honest we all feel like that at times.
We may sit next to our church family and not love the person beside us.
We may go to work and the person who is opposite us irritates the living daylights out of us.
Yet, Jesus left us in no doubt that loving God and loving one another is top priority as Christians.
If we love we are told to do it with all, our heart, soul and mind…
· So, when we give – we need to give with love.
· When we pray – we need to pray with love in our hearts.
· When we eat – we need to give thanks with love.
If we don’t do it with love, it is meaningless.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. God gave us his Son to teach us to love him and other people.
We had forgotten how to love God and one another, we had separated ourselves so much from others – that it was almost as if we were scared of anyone that was different.
Jesus loved everyone, no matter who they were or what they had done, or where they were from. He talked to anyone that would listen, spreading the message of God’s love.
This is what the Pharisees had great problems with – Jews needed to stick with Jews and obey Jewish law.
And in a way that hasn’t changed a great deal today. Yes, as Christians we do strive to achieve this goal. But there are a great deal of times that we forget this greatest of commandments.
Do we really love our neighbour –
· the refugees,
· people who are culturally different from us?
· People who dress differently from us?
· Homeless people?
· Even Christians from our own churches..
Loving our neighbours as God wants us to requires us to become vulnerable, it’s a risky business loving someone.
C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, describes the vulnerable nature of love.
"To love is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken. Instead, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
Do you really want to love like that?
Loving others as God loves us might be difficult, it might hurt at times, it might cost a broken heart.
God took a big risk and sent Jesus His Only Son, as a vulnerable baby into our broken world. God’s heart must have been broken when Jesus hung on that cross asking why had God his father forsaken him. Jesus paid the greatest price of all, to show us how much He loved us.
Loving a bar of chocolate doesn’t cost us anything… (except maybe a few inches around our waist)
But loving each other in the way God loves us – costs us, our hearts, our souls, our minds and all our strength.
With Good Friday quickly approaching in a few weeks I think it would be good if we could remember God’s amazing love for us.
An activity to do with the children:
Cut out a cross with stiff strong card – (cardboard boxes are a good strength) about the size of three pennies across.
Create hearts the size of the middle of your cross.
Make enough crosses for each child to take one home with an instruction to cover the crosses with pennies.
On the back of the cross put the words – Jesus paid the greatest price of all, to show us how much He loved us.
Each cross could be used as a display for Good Friday, and after Easter the pennies could be taken off and sent off to a charity that shows love through action.
There is a lovely simple song that you could teach the children to sing, it can be sung in two parts. It also has actions; these are available on You Tube. It’s called ‘For God so loved the world’ by John Hardwick.
For God so loved the World,
He gave His only Son,
That whoever believes in Him,
Shall not die, but have eternal life.
L is for the Love, that he has for me,
I am the reason he died on the Tree,
F is for forgiveness and now I am free
E is to enjoy being in His company…
© 1994 Daybreak Music/Elevation