God is love.
And Jesus seems to think love is important as well.
One day, one of the teachers of the Law tested Jesus with a question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Tough question. To be honest, I'd be a bit reluctant to answer a question like that. Like most preachers, I've become quite adept at sidestepping tough questions by answering the question I want to answer. For me to make such a pronouncement about the Law, I'd have to more proficient in the Law. I was taught growing up all of that "Jewish rulebook stuff" was unimportant. So, I have to admit I don't know the Law well enough to even give a guess.
But notice, Jesus doesn't answer the question like we would expect him to. As Post-Reformation Christians, we would expect him to say, "The Law? Why are you so concerned about the Law? I've not come to fulfill the Law. I've come to abolish the Law with a new covenant." However, it would be tough to get there if you pay close attention to Matthew 5:17-20.
Jesus never skips a beat. He quickly wades through 613 Old Testament Laws that he has certainly studied quite often (he was a Jew by the way, which we seem to forget), and he replies, "Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18." Well, not exactly. He actually says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (OK, he still answers the question in his own way by giving two laws instead of one).
Basically Jesus says, "613 laws are commentary on these two. Just love God and others and you've got it covered."
Now, this response didn't work for the Pharisees. And unfortunately, we're still trying to put caveats on Jesus' simple response. It's like we want to remind Jesus, "I think you forgot a few important things Jesus." But I'm sure if Jesus was here to defend himself he'd reply, "I didn't leave anything out. That's it. That's your job. Leave the rest to the Father."
Jesus loves the strangest people. He loves prostitutes, Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, a rich young ruler who can't leave his idol of wealth, and women caught in adultery. And his love separates him from the Pharisees. And his love threatened all of the religious leaders of his day.
We want to say, "Yes, Jesus love is important. But aren't there other things that are important too."
It's almost as if we want to pat Jesus on the head and let him know that he's naive about the world. But I'm not sure he's all that naive. He preached a message of love and was sincere enough about his message to die for it. That doesn't sound too naive.
For some reason, Jesus' boundless love was threatening to people in his day.
And as we'll see in this blog series (and possibly the blog comments as well), I think love is still quite threatening today.