April 21, 2022 A Reflection from Pastor Emilie Finn
Dear People of God,
I have a question for you: What does it mean to love? We talk about love a lot, in church and outside it, and as we walk through this most Holy Week and into Easter season, it seems very important to know what we mean when we use this word. So, this week, I want to take you back to kindergarten, and share with you the most important story I tell to the students I teach at the Day School. I call it the Love Story:
Once, there was a man who said such wonderful things and did such amazing things that people followed him wherever he went. As they followed him, they heard him talking about a kingdom. It wasn’t the kingdom they lived in, though. And it wasn’t like any kingdom they had ever been to—or even heard about. So they kept asking him what the kingdom of God was like, and how to get to it.
Usually when they asked him these questions, Jesus told them parables. But three times, he just told them. The first time was when a rich young man asked him, “Teacher, what good thing do I have to do to have eternal life?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to have life, you should follow the laws you already know: love God, and love other people.”
The rich man said, “I have always done that.”
But Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect at it, sell what you have, give the money to the poor, and come follow me.”
Later, a lawyer decided to test Jesus. He stood up and said, “Teacher, what do I have to do to have eternal life?”
Jesus said, “You’re one of the People of God. What do the commandments tell you?”
The lawyer said, “They tell me to love God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength; and to love my neighbor as I love myself.”
Jesus said, “Yes. That’s the right answer. Do that, and you will live.”
The third time was during the last supper Jesus ever ate with his disciples. Before supper, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Then he told them to do for each other what he had just done for them. “I am giving you a new commandment,” he told them. “I am commanding you to love each other just like I love each one of you. If you love me, you will love each other. And everyone will know you are my disciples if you love each other.”
These three commandments are the great commandments at the heart of Christianity: 1) Love God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. 3) Love one another as Jesus loves you. If anyone ever tells you that God says to do something that goes against one of these three commandments, you can know that that person is wrong.
The Bible tells us that a person who loves has fulfilled the whole law of God. That all the commandments, “You shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not lie, you shall not be jealous,” and any other commandment are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And here’s the important part: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult. Because if we really loved everyone, we would never harm anyone. And that would be keeping the entire law of God. And if everyone in the world did that, then we would all be living in the kingdom of God.