Faith In Real Life Blog
“I Love You is Not Enough”
Sharing Christ’s Love Worship Series
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.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
44 “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”?
45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
This is probably the most famous summation of Jesus’ understanding of his ministry. When asked what is the greatest commandment, he answers with two ‘greatest’. First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” and the second but also the ‘greatest’ is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As Jesus says: On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
For Jesus, words and deeds must be congruent. The words “I believe in Jesus” or “I believe love is the most important thing we can dedicate our lives to.” are not credible unless that love shows up in ordinary day to day life. By combining two existing commandments, Jesus inextricably weaves words and deeds.
Whether it is in relationship with each other or with God, “I Love you is not enough.” Most marriages begin with I love you but it takes quite a while for us to realize what loving another person means in real life. The same applies to parenting and friendships. Real life love is messy, ambiguous and complicated.
Loving is a choice, not a feeling. We do not have to like or want to be around our enemies but we are called to love them nonetheless.
Such love is difficult, inconvenient and risky. It has nothing to do with what we receive or hope to receive. It is strictly about what we are willing to offer to the one we love.
There are many romantic concepts around love in our culture. For Jesus, it boiled down to loving our neighbor as ourselves and following Jesus’ example in the way that we love. Again, this is a choice. There are many competing ‘most important’ concepts to live by. We have to decide which give life.
In secular society people are accused of being incongruent—2 examples come to mind —-OREOS (black on the outside, white on the inside) and RHINOS (Republican in name only). Both are insults and accuse people of failing to believe and act congruently. As insults, they are meant to disparage and eliminate nuance. As I understand Jesus, he consistently added nuance rather than eliminated it. This scripture sounds clear and simple but its application leaves room for many different understandings. One rule simply does not fit all situations.
There is a complicated debate as to whether someone can be saved without claiming Jesus as Lord and Savior. First, this is not our call. This is God’s. Second, I believe Jesus makes it plain that it is the activity of Loving that gives loving credibility and authority—not the concept. “No one comes to the Father except through me” is not simply a creedal statement. It is also a way of living. It is behavioral. Over and over again, Jesus challenged religious authority for exploiting the poor, following Sabbath law at the expense of human and even animal welfare, and claiming that obedience to the law was the measure of righteousness. They had the right words but they missed the point.
We do make the faith claim that Jesus is the best teacher and exemplar of what loving looks like in human life. That is the point of the Incarnation. God becoming flesh moves God from a transcendent concept into the realm of present real life. I am reasonably sure that when we finally make contact with life outside of our solar system, that new life’s understanding of how best to live will not be reliant on an itinerant Rabbi on first century earth. I do expect that the behaviors of mindfulness, regard, community and sharing—modern day fruits of the spirit, will be. (A very large faith claim for which I have no evidence).
When we use behavioral definitions, an examination of how time, energy and money are spent will reveal what is most important in our lives. Theologically, such behaviors will reveal what we worship. It may be security, acquisitions, power, etcetera, but our behaviors will reveal what really matters. We may claim love is most important but we are likely to discover that our personal welfare and status is where most of our energy goes. This is an ordinary human conundrum. Such examinations expose the gaps between what we say we believe and how we actually live our lives. It is far easier to criticize the Pharisees for their hypocrisy than to face those same gaps in ourselves. We all stand indicted.
Another pragmatic implication of using behavioral definitions is that such examinations reveal our highest priorities in real life. Theologically they reveal our idols. We worship something. We may not be willing to be accountable for what we worship but we all have a highest priority. When people claim to be atheists, they may well be rejecting a particular concept of God but their rejection does not change the fact that their behaviors will reveal what they (we) worship. When behaviors are the measure of our words, there is no such thing as an atheist.
It is easier to measure compliance to creeds than it is to figure out what is loving in any particular situation. But having the right words is simply not sufficient. Perhaps for that reason, we need humility and grace to love. We do not have, nor can we have the certainty that we are loving well. We Need the promise of God’s steadfast love to keep trying in the midst of such uncertainty.
One last comment on Jesus’ question at the close of this passage: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ The conventional understanding was that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David. Such a Royal lineage was consistent with a Royal Messiah. But authority for Jesus did not emerge from lineage. It came from ‘walking the walk.’ By quoting psalm 100, Jesus points out that Messiah could not be the Son of David. He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44 “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ Once again Jesus turns religious certainty on its head. In real life, Jesus was exposing the difference between positional authority and the authority that emerges from matching our words and behaviors. The Pharisees relied on their lineage and their positions as designated leaders for their authority. Jesus contradicted them and claimed that authority rested with living a life of love, obedient to the God of love.
Strive to walk the walk of loving. Do so in humility. Do so in the confidence that God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Let it be so.