Speaking of Life 5049│CliffsNotes About Love
You may have used CliffsNotes as a student to help you get a better grasp of your coursework. They are study guides that summarize different subjects, like organic chemistry, US history, and classic works of literature. If you had three classic novels to read in a short time, you probably used CliffsNotes to help you understand the most important points. You may have even unsuccessfully tried to get away with using CliffsNotes as a substitute for actually reading those classic works of literature. Guilty!
Distilling the most important concepts into easy-to-remember bites can help us learn. We read in Matthew 22 that the Pharisees were interested in what Jesus considered the most important points of the law, though their motives were to test him rather than to learn from him. Jesus’ response helps us to understand the role that love plays in the keeping of the law, and in our relationship with God and other people:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, an expert in the law, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 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.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40 (NRSVUE)
Jesus’ response comes from two sources, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and Leviticus 19:18, and it highlights that the law is based on our response to God and to others. Jesus said all the law and prophets hang on these two commandments; they are the CliffsNotes to how to respond to God and how to respond to others – with love.
Jesus added to this in the Upper Room with his disciples when he told them he was giving them a new commandment – to love others as he loves us. In this case, it’s not about the law and the prophets, it’s about relationship.
This is another of God’s CliffsNotes; this one summarizes how to be in the right relationship with others.
Where does this love come from? From the author of all love – God himself.
In another passage we are told, God is love. We can love because he first loved us.
Jesus’ new commandment, “Love others as I have loved you.” Moves beyond the law and the prophets and tells us to love without expectations. To walk alongside people, to encourage them, to provide healing and comfort for them, because we are connected to the Source, a God who is love. When we put others first – just like Jesus did for us – we are fulfilling the two great commandments and the new commandment.
As we feel the love from God, for God, for others, and even for ourselves, may we be blessed with a greater understanding of Love’s embrace as we pursue a deeper relationship with the triune God and other people.
I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.