Yesterday morning I preached from Matthew 22:34-39 and entitled it “Our Love Problem.” The context is Jesus’ silencing of the Sadducees, which of course sparks some interest from the always combative Pharisees, namely one lawyer, who after consulting with his fellow Pharisee brothers seeks to trap Jesus in a question of what is the greatest commandment. Ironically, this Pharisee/lawyer does address him as “Teacher,” a title of respect that clearly removed him from the majority of the Pharisee crowd. Jesus, without taking any time to ponder over the question, responds with the Jewish confession of faith, the Shema. However, he includes the second greatest commandment in his response, that of loving your neighbor as yourself – a statement I’ve always found peculiar and interesting. Think for a moment: how do you love yourself? Again, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson in their book “Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ” say that we love ourselves by taking care of our hunger, thirst and sickness. Most of us intuitively look out for own welfare and Jesus says that same awareness of our personal welfare is to be manifested towards the welfare of others. Needless to say, this probably didn’t resonate well with the Pharisees, because if anyone was guilty of loving themselves, it was them and they certainly didn’t want to love people like that.
The reasoning behind my title is found in the fact that “every sin we commit finds its genesis in a failure to obey one or the other or both” (Johnson, Fitzpatrick, pp. 55). I had three points in my sermon and they were…
- Our love for God is responsive – I John 4:19-20 “We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
- Our love for God controls us – II Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus; that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
- Our love for God showcases our belief – John 13:33 “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This message was the first in a series of ten that I’ll be preaching on what’s a healthy church and it’s members look like. And yes, if you’re wondering, the series is taken in large part from Dr. Mark Dever’s book “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.”