Everything Else is Second

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

            This summer while traveling, we had the opportunity to share at Poplar Spring Church in King, NC.  Poplar Springs was the church that I grew up in, and was the place that had ordained me into ministry.  It is always a pleasure to go back and share about the things that God has been teaching us while living in Bangkok.  This year, my message firstly focused on building a relationship with God, and then secondly, building relationships with others.  While I was preparing the message, Jana hit me with a question that I had not considered while looking at this passage.  Jana said, “I have never noticed that at the end of this passage that Jesus states, ‘the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these commandments.”  As we continued discussing her insight, we quickly realized that Jesus was telling us that everything that we deem important is second to this great commandment.

            The idea that everything came second opened my mind to the fact that no matter how passionate I might be about a particular issue or ritual, if I am not loving God and loving other people, nothing matters.  This problem was considerably noticeable to us as we traveled and watched the news media while visiting family and friends.  It appears as if we have become so passionate about certain issues we deem as “sin”, that we forget that God commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Jesus did not say to love your friends, or love people that think like you, or love people that act like you, or even love people that live like you; He simply said to, “Love our neighbor.” 

            As I was speaking at Poplar Springs, I was reminded that I am more receptive to input from people whom I have a relationship with.  If certain people who I cherish as personal friends speak truth into my life, then I listen.  No matter what that truth might be, I am open to receiving it.  But, we are not using the same practice with our neighbors because we are not building relationships with them.  Instead of building a relationship first, we want to state our agenda, hammer a person with our Christian truth while exposing their sin, and then start building a relationship with that person.  Why are we shocked when people state that their impression of Christianity is judgmental?  I do not believe that is the prominent example Jesus gave us throughout the New Testament.

            Let me close by saying that I believe in truth and the Bible as the Word of God.  I am also quick to judge others instead of focusing on relationships.  But, this approach is not the one we are shown in John 8.  Too often we want to ask who the sinner was, and what their consequence came to be. Maybe instead, we should start focusing on Jesus’s answer to not be so concerned with pointing fingers at other people’s sin and instead let Jesus work in that person’s life:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.” Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”