The Greatest Commandment.


love God, love others

Picture courtesy of Josh Jack Carl

Have you ever been ignored for an extended period of time, by a loved one? You love them and believe they love you, yet being ignored for too long can make you question that. No one likes being ignored especially by a loved one. Does it surprise you that God feels that way also. We are made in his image. In today's first Psalm and the Old Testament Reading we hear the cry of His heart.

O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways! - Psalm 81:13.

God is longing to bless his children but they are ignoring him, and hurting each other because they are not listening to Him. You listen to those you love and respect and if you are not listened to, you feel slighted, ignored and unloved.

Our Gospel reading today is the Greatest Commandment which boils down to LOVE GOD; and is followed by LOVE people. Often we can't do the second without doing the first and getting God's help to do so. Today as I write this it is International Women's Day and my heroine is a good example of how to love God and love people.

Corrie Ten Boom and her family secretly housed Jews in their home during WW II. Their "illegal" activity was discovered, and Corrie and her sister Bessie were sent to the German death camp, Ravensbruck. There Corrie would watch many, including her sister, die. After the war she returned to Germany to share her testimony and the grace of God. She had been travelling around a defeated Germany speaking about forgiveness. She spoke on how when God forgives our sins He casts them into the deepest ocean and they are gone forever, and then God puts up a sign that says “No fishing allowed”. After one of her speeches a man she recognized came walking towards her. He was one of the cruel guards from the camp, all the horrors of her captivity came flooding back

“A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course — how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there… But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein” — again the hand came out —“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there — I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven — and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? The guard stood there expectantly, waiting for me to shake his hand. I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.

Standing there before the former S.S. man, I remembered that forgiveness is an act of the will — not an emotion. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

I thrust out my hand. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

- Corrie Ten Boom

The Greatest Commandment - Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The Gospel of Luke adds also with all your strength. So tell me. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength what’s left? What is it that doesn’t fit into one of those categories? What Jesus is telling us is that we need to love God with all that we are. Love God with everything that we have. When we do this and then we love our neighbour as ourselves we are actually fulfilling the entire law. The entire Old Testament and its 613 laws can be summed up in these two commands. That should tell you something: they are important commands to keep. I wonder how we are doing.