In Matthew chapter 22, some of the Jewish leaders try to challenge Jesus by asking him what the greatest commandment is. Jesus summarizes the greatest commandment of the Hebrew scriptures this way:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘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.” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)
This verse and idea are very familiar to many of us. Jesus’ heart was to love people, and we love that about Jesus. However, because of our familiarity it can be difficult for us to understand just how disruptive this was for Jesus to say to His audience.
Jesus is quoting from two parts of the Hebrew Scriptures: Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. These are both from the Torah, which means instruction or law. What he’s doing is telling the religious leaders His interpretation of their Law. Jesus believes that it can all be summarized in these two ideas: loving God and loving our neighbors.
Israel had a complicated relationship with their neighbors. Jesus came on the scene in a time in the History of their nation when they were under Roman rule, so they had little control & power. In fact, Rome wasn’t the first to oppressively rule them. Israel had a long history of being conquered by surrounding nations. For these first century Jews, the idea of God caring for those outside of their ethnic group was not normal to them. Jesus’ audience wanted to be rescued from the world, but Jesus was God’s plan to rescue them for the sake of the world.
We’re in a moment in History where we’ve lost some control. Life isn’t as it’s normally been, but the message of Jesus has always been one that saves us for the sake of our world. Some of our neighbors, coworkers and friends are probably a bit uncertain and a bit anxious about what the future may hold, but we have a hope that is for their sake, and this is a great opportunity to live it out.
A pandemic & social distancing doesn’t change the mission of the church of Jesus Christ to bring hope to our neighbors. We have an opportunity like never before to live out Jesus’ hope for the world by loving, serving and caring for those in our communities. We can allow this challenge to bring out the best in us rather than focusing on our own self-preservation.
Jesus came to serve us, and then invited us to become those who do as He did: serving others even at our own expense. Here are some practical ways we can love, serve and spread hope right now:
Donate to Boxes of Hope
River Valley is partnering with Boxes of Hope, a national campaign, to bring hope to the doorsteps of those facing illness, quarantine, job loss, isolation, and fear. At River Valley we believe that our situation does not change our conviction–our conviction changes our situation. Boxes of Hope is a tangible way to make a difference in the lives of those in need in our church family and community. You can learn more by clicking here.
Care For Your Neighbors
Wherever you live, you probably have someone who lives near you who could use help in some way. Whether it’s buying a bag of groceries, dropping off a meal, or even just giving them a small gift card to encourage them, we can spread hope through showing our neighbors that we care for them.
Call Your Friends and Family
Many people simply feel isolated or alone right now, and many of us can simply serve with our time. Taking some time to call or video chat with those that you know & love and checking in on them can mean so much. We can still care by connecting during this time, it just looks a bit different!