Jesus answered, “The most important is this: Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is our only Lord! With every fiber of your being be patient with God; be kind to God; trust God; don’t let your pride come between you and God; don’t behave as if you know more than God; treat God with respect; don’t be selfish and self-centered in your dealings with God; don’t be short-tempered with God; don’t be resentful at God; don’t feel satisfaction when it looks like God is failing or is experiencing misfortune; be sincere with God and celebrate that sincerity; put up with everything God is doing and saying; trust everything God does and says; hope for the best in everything God does; patiently endure anything that you think God is making you go through; don’t give up on God.”
“The commandment which is second to that is: Just as you would want them to be with you, be patient with the people in your life; be kind to the people in your life; trust the people in your life; don’t let your pride come between you and the people in your life; don’t behave as if you know more than the people in your life; treat the people in your life with respect; don’t be selfish and self-centered in your dealings with the people in your life; don’t be short-tempered with the people in your life; don’t be resentful at the people in your life; don’t feel satisfaction when it looks like the people in your life are failing or experiencing misfortune; be sincere with the people in your life and celebrate that sincerity; put up with everything the people in your life are doing and saying; trust everything that the people in your life do and say; hope for the best in everything the people in your life are doing; patiently endure anything that you think the people in your life are making you go through; don’t give up on the people in your life. No other commandment is as important than these things.”
Doing these things, Loving God and loving others, being patient and kind, and the rest, THIS IS YOUR LAW! THESE ARE YOUR SACRIFICES TO GOD! THESE ARE THE BURNT OFFERINGS YOU MAKE TO GOD! God does not want your money, or your bulls, or your sheep. GOD DOES NOT EVEN WANT YOU TO FOLLOW THE REST OF THE LAW IF YOU CANNOT OR WILL NOT FOLLOW THE LAW OF LOVE!
Anyone who keeps this Law of Love is close to the Kingdom of God – which is the Kingdom of Love. Anyone who does not keep this Law of Love, even though they think they are holy or religious because they go to church and read the Bible but are hurting others in the name of God, persecuting others in the name of Jesus, and condemning others to hell on God’s behalf, are far from the Kingdom of God. In fact, they are so far away from it, they have no idea what it looks like, which is what allows them to convince themselves that they are serving the Kingdom when they are only serving their own bigotry and hatred.
There was a rich young man who went to Jesus and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him and the man did not like the answer. The man left. Jesus let him go. Jesus let the man be who the man was. Jesus did not condemn the man. Jesus did not judge the man. Jesus did not use the man as an example of everything that is wrong with the world or with Judaism, or anything else. Jesus LOVED the man. That is what it says in the text. Jesus looked at the man and loved him – not romantic love because that would be a different word in the Greek, but agape love – the selfless, self-giving love that asks nothing in return; the love that is patient and kind and trusting and respectful and the rest.
So I have used Saint Paul’s description of what love looks like and used it to fill in the story of how we are supposed to behave toward God and toward others. BUT HERE IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: since love is selfless and self-giving, asking nothing in return, can you honestly say that you love God unselfishly, asking nothing from God, or is your love of God contingent upon what you believe your love will get for you (i.e. eternal life in heaven, blessing, care, protection, etc.)? If God said to you, “I want you to love me, and I promise you nothing – no eternal life, nothing! I don’t even promise that I’ll ever think about you or remember you again after this sentence,” would you love God? Can you love God simply because it is proper for the creature to love the Creator and for no other reason?
If you cannot love God without being sure of getting eternal life, or protection, or blessings, or whatever, then it is not God that you love. You love eternal life, or protection, or blessing, or whatever, and you see God as the means to get what you love. But we do not love the means to the end, we love the end itself. Therefore, love is when we stop treating God and other people as a means to an end, but we start treating them as if they are the end themselves.
A biblical scholar asked Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?”
Jesus said, “Stop treating God and other people as a means to an end.”