One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.
While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’” David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
‘All you need is love, love, love is all you need’ So the Beatles first sang in 1967, as Britain’s contribution to Our World, the first live global television link. It’s an appropriate song to sing to the whole world, with words that point to the way in which love can hold people together, across boundaries and barriers. It is just as appropriate today, in the midst of the political tensions and fears across the world, and in the increasing polarisations between people of different views and understandings in a whole range of areas.
The words of the song resonate with Jesus’ teaching about love, a teaching just as relevant today as two thousand years ago. Love is God’s gift, flowing out of God’s nature and being, and made visible in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In response to this gift, we are called to love, both God and one another.
Jesus’ words about love can feel mundane and obvious, easy to be overlooked in the need to get on with the important, demanding, and challenging activities that everyday life brings.
Yet these words offer what can feel like the hardest challenge – a challenge that silenced Jesus’ listeners. Loving God means building up my relationship with God in prayer and in taking time in the midst of a busy round to listen for God’s voice. Loving my neighbour is not just about loving those like me that I get on with, but loving the stranger, the alien, the person with whom I feel I have nothing in common.
Love is not a simple and easy road. It leads to the way of the cross. It takes me to the point of reflecting on who I really am and seeing the barriers I put in place of being filled with God’s love.
Loving God, may I grow in my knowledge and experience of your love for me. Take from me the barriers that I put in the way of being filled with your love. As I grow in this love, may it flow out of my life to you and my neighbour. Help me to love you with all of my being. Help me to love my neighbour, whether friend or stranger, as you love me. Amen .
Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired minister, active theologically and ecumenically, member of St Andrews URC, Ealing.