I will be preaching on Mk 12.28-31 this Sunday, where Jesus modifies the Shema (Deut 6) into the Jesus Creed:
“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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This is the second sermon in a series. Last week, our pastor Mislav Ilić did a great job of laying out the primary ideas of the Shema. I am following up by talking about what it means to love God. I am taking the basic outline of my message from Scott McKnight’s biblical definition of love from A Fellowship of Differents.
What does the Bible mean by “love”? McKnight has used a four-part and a five-part definition in different settings. For this sermon, I will use his four-part definition.
- Love is a stubborn, rugged commitment to another person. We could use the theological term “covenant”, but it’s often meaningless outside theological circles. I like to focus on the grittier language.
- Love is a stubborn, rugged commitment to be present with the other person. You cannot love if there is no presence, if there is not attention, if there is no time together. (Aside: as I have studied for this sermon, I have been convicted of how little time I am actually present when I am with my wife; I am so often distracted and not really “all there.”) McKnight uses the preposition “with” to describe this aspect of love.
- Love is a stubborn, rugged commitment to be on the other person’s side. If you love them, you are on their team. You are their advocate. You always want what is best for them. You never use them or manipulate them to get what YOU want, because your love for another is NOT. ABOUT. YOU. McKnight uses the preposition “for” to describe this aspect of love.
- Love is a stubborn commitment to help the other person move in a Godward direction. God does not just save us and leave us as he found us. He works in our lives to move us toward Jesus, toward cruciformity, so that we become better and better reflections of Jesus’ character and goodness. What do Romans 8.28-30 say about God’s purpose for your life? As I read this passage, it says that God is at work in everything that happens (“God works all things according to his purpose”) to shape you into a better reflection of Jesus Christ (“which is to conform you to the likeness of his son”.)
So: love is a rugged, stubborn commitment to another person, to be present with them, to be on their side, and to move with them in a Godward direction.
In the light of the two greatest commandments (“Love the Lord your God; Love your neighbor as yourself”), what does this biblical definition of love look like?
- Stubborn: we are committed to him and do not chase other gods. We are committed to him, even when we fail.
- Present: we seek time in his presence, because we love him.
- On his side: we want what he wants in the world. “Lord, let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Goal-directed: we want to become the people he wants us to be. We don’t settle for “good enough.” We want to become perfect reflections of Jesus.
- Stubborn: we never give up on anyone we love, or wash our hands of them.
- Present: we commit to be present with them, physically and emotionally. Give your attention to the person you love, no distractions or preoccupations. Truly listen.
- On their side: we commit to being on that person’s side, their advocate, doing what is best for THEM instead of using them to do what is best for us or what we want.
- Goal-directed: we commit to seeking God’s goal for that person.
You know what? I think that’ll preach.