I am remembering the story in Mark 12, when Jesus was asked a very honest question by a lawyer with an inquiring mind. What did Jesus think was the most important command in the Law? So often, when people asked Jesus questions, it was in order to trap him. But this scribe seems to be quite genuine in seeking Jesus’ counsel. Jesus answered and when he was through, the scribe could find nothing wrong with his answer. Jesus had reduced 613 commands to just two.
Jesus said we are to love God with all that we are, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. As Richard Vinson puts it, “The God who made all things commands our absolute and utter devotion and loyalty. Nothing we do will matter as much as whether we can take our ambitions, emotions, commitments, and thoughts and dedicate them to God.” Well said; love in this context is not about warm fuzzy feelings, but about a constant and consistent turning in God’s direction. But it is not easy to do is it? We have a lot to learn about loving God in this way.
Jesus also said that day that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. I suspect Jesus was speaking in this context, about love as something we do for someone who needs it. That is what Jesus was always going about doing. Loving our neighbor, doing love, sounds simple, but we know it is not.
I have always liked the story about a college professor of Christian ethics who handed out an exam that had 20 difficult questions. The instructions said to read the entire exam before beginning to write. Most students, seeing the number of questions, despaired of answering them all in the time allotted. They ignored the instructions and started right in on the first question. A few students wrote nothing at all. They just looked at the paper for a while and stared into space, as though they were trying to remember something. But one student completed the exam in a matter of minutes, submitted the paper, and walked out of the room, smiling.
That student was the only one who passed. That student was the only one who followed the instructions fully, reading through all 20 questions before reaching the final one. The final question went like this: "Congratulations! You have followed the instructions perfectly. There is no need to answer any of the other 19 questions. Just answer this one. This question is very simple, and it is the only one that counts. Write the name of the janitor who cleans this classroom." That question tried to measure how hard the students tried to love their neighbor, the custodian, whom most habitually ignored, as themselves.
Our worship theme in October is, “The Word That Knows No Equal.” That word is love. I pray that you will join us each Sunday morning for Bible Study and worship.
In Christ’s love, Pastor Joel
Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell