As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Jesus Creed was given at Fusion Youth Service at Waverley Salvation Army on Sunday 3 November, 2013. The Bible reading was Mark 12:28-34.
“Which is the greatest?” It’s a question that is very common, to find out where you stand on certain important issues. Who was the greatest batsman? Well, you’ve got to go with the Don, but if you take him out, who was the greatest modern day batsman? Do you go with Ponting, or Tendulkar? Or who was the greatest Bond? Do you go Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, maybe Daniel Craig, or perhaps Linda? This question of the greatest goes a long way in telling us what the priorities of a person are, and whether they align with our own.
This is a question very dear to my heart – Kirk or Picard, which was the better Star Trek captain. On Facebook, the official Star Trek page would ask a question like this at least every other week – Who’s your favourite captain, which captain had more influence on the Star Trek world, who would you rather serve under, who would you prefer to be stuck in a shuttlecraft with. The debate wages on. For the record, I’m a Next Gen man – I really like Next Gen, and my favourite captain is Picard.
In the passage we were just looking at, we have a scribe come and ask a question of Jesus as to what command is the first of all? That is, what is the greatest command above all others. This is a bit of a trick question, because the Rabbis – while they sometimes engaged in this sort of question – held that all commands were equal, and there was no command that was greater than another. Now that comes through more in Matthew’s version of this conversation, but here in Mark, it seems to be one of general interest from the scribe. He hears Jesus’ answer, and repeats it back, saying that “it is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jesus’ response to the question, which is the greatest, is succinct, simple, and gamechanging. The Rabbis had 613 commands in the Torah – 248 positive commands, one for each part of the body, and 365 negative commands, one for each day of the year. Jesus turned all of that on its head by quoting two of them. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and Love your neighbour as yourself. I’m going to break these down into three – Love God, Love Others, and Love yourself.
Love God with all your Heart
The first part of Loving God is to love him with all your heart. Now, in Jesus’ time, the heart wasn’t just the muscle that pumps blood around the body. The heart was the centre of a person’s willing, choosing and doing. Here, Jesus is saying Love God through everything that you will, everything that you choose, and everything that you do. Everything that you think about – do it for God. Everything that you choose – do it for God. Everything that you do – do it for God. But what does that look like, for us today?
Love God with all your Soul
The second part of loving God is to love him with all your soul. Now, I looked up the Greek word used here, and it took a page and a half to describe all the various meanings of this word. Is it any wonder that we have a hard time trying to pin down what our soul actually is? In essence, the soul is our life-centre, or life-principle, it is the thing that guides us in what we do, and it is the thing that is most connected to the spiritual side. I’ve heard it said that Words are for the head, music for the heart, and silence for the soul – it’s often in the silence that we truly hear from God. So if we’re to Love God with all our soul, what does that look like for us today?
Love God with all your Mind
The third part of Jesus’ command to love God is to Love God with all your mind. Now this is actually an addition by Jesus from the passage he’s quoting – Deuteronomy 6 doesn’t include the command to Love God with all your mind. With every thought that you have, it should be about God. Depending on what research you’re able to find, we have between 5000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. With each thought, we are creating neural pathways that make it easier for those thoughts to happen again. When we fill our mind with thoughts of God, it makes it easier for our thoughts to go back there, and for our actions to follow our thoughts. When we fill our mind with less noble things, things not of God, the same thing happens – its easier for our thoughts to go back there. If we are to Love God, we should fill our mind with thoughts of him more often than we fill it with other things. But what does that look like to us today?
Love God with all your Strength
The final part of Jesus’s command is to love God with all your might, or with all your strength. This is your physical body, Jesus saying what you do with your Body, do it for the Love of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” Paul is saying this is where the Holy Spirit resides, therefore we shouldn’t allow it to be involved with things that aren’t of the spirit, but things that glorify God. But, how does it look for us today to love God with all your strength?
Love your Neighbour
When we look at Matthew’s account, Jesus introduces the second command with the words “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” For me, Loving your neighbour is very much like loving God. Some of the more practical ways that we can show our love of God – in heart, soul, mind and strength – is by loving those around us. Matthew 25:31-46 talks about the Son of Man separating people like a shepherd separates his sheep and goats. When asked when it was that the sheep did the good things to the Lord, he answers “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” When we show love to others, we are showing love to Jesus.
The third part of the command, one which we generally skip over, is to love ourselves. If you are to love your neighbour as yourself, the implied command in there is that you must also love yourself. Yet there’s so many people – Christians included – that suffer from self-doubts, body image problems, things that stop them from fully loving themselves. As we heard from Kate last month, we were fearfully and wonderfully made, and wonderful are his works. You were created by God, and “God don’t make no junk”. So love yourself – rejoice in the person that God created you to be. Rejoice that there is no-one else like you, because God made you to be you.
So tonight, what have we looked at? More importantly – what can we take away with us? Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, and the two he highlights are to what? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself. Or to put it simply, Love God, Love Others, Love Yourself.
I’m inviting you to spend some time, reflecting on what you’ve read today, and in the comments, share what you will do this week to Love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength, to love your neighbour, and to love yourself this week. Then come back in a week and share how you went.