Who is my Brother?

Psalm 119:63         TLB

Anyone is my brother who fears and trusts the Lord and obeys him.

In these confusing times, it is nice to have theological guidance from the one who is best qualified to teach us, the Lord Himself. It is so easy for humans to divide ourselves into cliques. In religious circles we call them denominations. The denominations work to help likeminded individuals worship God in patterns which agree with their personal philosophies, habits and even comfort. We are different but have similarities with others. We congregate around those similarities.

In today’s verse, God shows us the one similarity that is important to Him. We can overlook a great number of differences when we have this one in common; that we each love God, having given our trust and obedience to Him. Interestingly, this guiding principle leads us to communion with Jews as well as Christian denominations because they, too, love the God we love. So, it turns out that the real test for communion is love of the one true God. How we serve Him and how we worship Him is less important than our zeal for Him.

I have adopted this philosophy though not so much intellectually as organically. By that I mean that I really did not make a decision to believe this way. I simply found myself attracted to others who love God even if we don’t believe exactly the same. I am also learning that I do not have to persuade them to my way of thinking. The Holy Spirit is the teacher and is leading us all on the journey to full enlightenment. It is his responsibility to teach us. I may have some revelation another doesn’t, but they may have learned some things I have not yet learned. It is even okay to be wrong if you love Yahweh. Our Lord is revealing all truth to us bit by bit and will lead us all to the fullness of the knowledge of Him. The one thing God cannot do is mandate our love and devotion. The decision to love and serve Him is uniquely our own. Once that decision is firmly settled down in one’s spirit, the decision to love others becomes easier and easier.

You and I both have witnessed disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, between Jews and Christians, and disputes amongst Protestants. When I imagine myself sitting in the throne room, beside God looking down and witnessing these disputes, I do not perceive them as important. In truth, today’s verse is an excellent reflection of Jesus’ theology. When asked which was the greatest commandment Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37 – 40). Jesus was teaching that all of the law and all the teaching of the prophets, the entire canon of law and the entire theological doctrine from the beginning of humanity until that very moment was contained in those two commandments. Jesus then went on to synthesize and express the entire law and doctrine of his coming and ascension, or the complete embodiment of New Covenant theology. He said, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” (John 13: 34). This is the sum of Jesus’ theological argument. This is New Testament, resurrected savior theology. The rest of the New Testament is there to lead us to this revelation.

I am not Catholic, but I love Catholics. I am not Baptist, but I love Baptists. I do not cling to any one denomination, but if you love Jesus and if you revere God, then you are my brother and I love you. My job in God’s service is to teach but first, I must love. If you get a revelation because of something I have taught, fabulous! But, if you draw closer to Yahweh in your own relationship with Him because you have seen the love of God in me, Hallelujah! That is the glory of God.

Love Me, Love You

Matthew 22: 37 – 40

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”

There is no more important topic than love. This is the topic which is foremost on the Lord’s mind. Actually, He never tires of talking about love. There are, however, three aspects of love. First and foremost is, love of the Father. That is exactly what Jesus points to in this passage. When asked what the greatest commandment is, he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That is number one. Second, according to Jesus, is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. So, there is another kind of love presumed here. That is self-love. Jesus expects us to have a healthy self-love. This is not narcissism. Narcissism is “selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.”

Healthy self-love means doing those things which promote a healthy life physically, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Jesus says that we should love others in our community as a healthy person loves and treats himself. Our community includes everyone we come in contact with. It is important that we recognize that “our neighbors” are not only our Christian brethren. Second, we are to love our neighbors equally with how we love ourselves. With this presumption of loving ourselves in a healthy way, we are supposed to love others in a healthy substantive way too.

Love God, love your neighbor, those are the two loves Jesus refers to in this passage and he insinuates a healthy self-love. There is, however, another love, and this one is the key. That which we have discussed is our expression of love towards ourselves and others. The most important love of all is God’s love for us. His love is what drives the universe. There is no savior, no salvation, no life even without the love of God. There is no love at all without the love of God. When I say that this love is the driver, I mean to convey that there is no ability for us to love ourselves, love others, or even love God Himself without first having the love of God expressed to our hearts. Only when we receive God’s love can we even reasonably dream of being lovely ourselves. It is His love with which we love others. The work of loving God and loving our neighbors takes place in letting God love us.

I want you to understand that receiving God’s love is not necessarily a passive process. When we slow down and commune our hearts with His then we are able to open ourselves to actually receiving His love. In other words, if you wish to make it your determined purpose to obey Jesus guidance from this passage, then the means, the only means for accomplishing same is to allow God to love you. It is not only the beginning point but also the ending point and everything in between. Loving yourself begins with allowing God to love you. Loving others is powered by the love God gives you.

The primary work of the gospel is to receive the love of God and subsequently convey it to others. That’s it – that’s the gospel. Easy, right? You know, for some of us this is the hardest thing we will do, letting God love us. Too loud in our psyche is our unworthiness, which I will write about next week and let you know how I overcome that issue.