Loving with your whole heart is not easy

This is the Advent devotional I wrote for the FOCUS churches this year. It had to be based on a particular Scripture lesson (Matthew 22:34-46), be of a certain length, and end with a prayer. For your convenience, I’ve followed the piece with the Scripture.

In the Scripture lesson, Jesus is being tested theologically. The religious leadership of the day is constantly trying to trip Him up, asking a bunch of questions. What IS the greatest commandment? To love God, and likewise, to love each other.

We are often tested trying to follow these dictates. Sure we may see ourselves as “good” and “nice” people. Maybe we go to church, quote Scripture. Do we REALLY love God with all our heart, mind, and soul? I think God knows that a mysterious and disembodied deity may be sometimes difficult to comprehend.

Fortunately, Jesus has equated loving each other with loving God. How are we doing with that presumably easier task? Yes, you may love your friends and family. What of that seemingly unlovable coot in the office, or that obnoxious teenager – love them too! How do we find the way to do THAT?

We follow the example of Jesus’ loving-kindness. We show patience and generosity. In what we do to the least of God’s people, we show our love to God.

In many ways, that is what the FOCUS ministries are designed to do. It’s not merely feeding people, which is a good and right thing to do. It is showing love. The peculiar thing about giving love is that one often gets as much in return as one expends.

Dear Lord,
May we share the love that we have received so that, by our words and actions, God’s love can reach those in need of that love.
Matthew 22:
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
You ever taken a writing assignment, know what you’re going to write, then NOT write it, then end up knocking off something under the gun? I’m afraid thast’s PRECISELY what happened here. Wish I had written it right away. Ah, well, lesson learned (*or probably not…).

12 thoughts on “Loving with your whole heart is not easy”

  1. “You ever taken a writing assignment, know what you’re going to write, then NOT write it, then end up knocking off something under the gun?”

    I have written two dissertations. I’m pretty sure that’s in the “how to write a dissertation” manual.


  2. I think the “Spirit” needed to move you before you could write such eloquent words. And we all know the Spirit moves on its own schedule! Seriously, these are wonderful words and ones we need to remember all year long. Of course, that means we need to try and love all those people at both MSNBC and Fox! 🙂 BTW, I called you out in my post today for being a Liebster. Perfect timing. LOL!


  3. Writing is what it is what it is, you know? Besides, I think your choice of Scripture and reference to Advent are right on the money.

    I was wondering which FOCUS ministries you were citing. I saw several on a Google search: everything from helping victims of domestic abuse to something about Seventh-Day Adventists. Would you please send me a website via email when/if you get a chance?

    Thanks, Rog. Amy


  4. Let me get this straight. Jesus of Nazareth argued that David (and presumably his descendants) cannot be called Messiah because David is not the son of God, but merely a favored vassal of God? But I’ve always understood that Jesus was descended from David. Does that indicate that Jesus is NOT the son of God? Or does that indicate that the genealogy tracing Jesus’ descent from David in the New Testament is bogus?


  5. I realize that I could be burned at the stake for stating the obvious, but…

    Matthew 24:36 – “But concerning that day and hour [of the end of the world] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

    God, by definition, is all-knowing. But “The Son” (presumably Jesus of Nazareth referring to himself) by his own admission does not know at least one thing. So how can he be called God?

    So, in two places in Matthew we have Jesus of Nazareth effectively denying that he is God. I’m surprised that got past the editors.


  6. Yes, and an awful lot of people have died violently over the exact nature of that purported Human/God relationship, Christians murdered by the hands of other Christians. I’m not trying to shake your faith here, I don’t want to be responsible for the consequences of that! I’m just wondering why, if we follow the example of Jesus and use logic, and if we accept the text as given assumption, then how is it that the implications of these statements that come right from the man’s mouth are universally ignored?

    Seems to me that either the text is wildly unreliable, or the guy was trying to tell us to not put him on a pedestal and idolize him. I’m just sayin’.


    1. Trust me, you aren’t shaking my faith. It’s just that there is no much of this Bible stuff that if read literally, as a history, rather than as an allegory, would not make sense, starting with the incompatibility of Genesis 1 and 2. I read the story and come to my conclusion; others read it differently. Just because American ministers wrote sermons in support of slavery doesn’t mean that’s what the book is saying.
      Is Catcher in the Rye responsible for all the loner assassin types it seems to inspire?


  7. Heh. I hardly think that my ponderings are going to upset your world Roger. My problem with Christianity (and Judaism and Islam) is that the idea of a CEO of The Universe is absurd to the point of ludicrous.

    Only a handful of the words of Jesus of Nazareth come through in the New Testament. From those few words we can see that he was clearly an extraordinary person and I wish we could have heard more of what he said so long ago. But it’s easy to see that the editors of the New Testament felt compelled to jam him and his advice into the exclusively human notion that the universe is a pyramidal monarchy or corporation or whatever. It appears that so much of what he said that was important got left behind in the void of time. And somehow the guy’s point of view got grafted onto Platonism, which by itself I consider a load of nonsense.

    That being said, I’ve learned to respect religion because I’ve seen that individuals depend upon it to survive. It’s a powerful force and thus demands respect. I save my contempt for those who try to exploit this powerful force, for personal gain or simply to manipulate others into hurting each other.


    1. Dan- do I think terrible, awful things have been done in the name of religion? You betcha. And that people, possibly starting with Paul, have mucked it up. Just for fun, I would recommend you read Jesus for President, which talks about Jesus in his time frame and it becomes clear that Jesus isn’t saying what many people have suggested. Take the woman who had two coins and gave all that she had. Many sermons have been written suggesting that she was noble, giving all she had. But the authors suggest she was exploited by a usurous temple system that exploited the poor. Same story in the same book, very different interpretations.


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