Matthew 28:20a — “Say What?”

“Teach them to obey everything that I have commanded”

For some reason when I read this verse the image that pops into my mind is that of little Arnold Drummond (played by Gary Coleman) on the show “Different Strokes.”  Anytime Arnold questioned something said by his brother, Willis, he would cock his head to the side, pucker up is face and say the now famous line–“Wuh-choo talkin’ bout Willis?”

Sure, some of Jesus’ teachings sound real nice, particularly in our anything goes tolerant society.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength–great, no problem.  Love you neighbor as you love yourself–cool, got it.  In fact, Jesus said that there was nothing else more important than these two simple laws of life–love God and love neighbor.

But wait, Jesus didn’t just say “love God and love neighbor.”  He said love God with all your:

Heart–Wait.  You mean my whole heart must be directed toward him?  Not toward my wife or children?  Not to my job or my hobbies?  Not to fulfilling the socially accepted norms for a 30-something American male?  Nope, Jesus said “with all your heart.”  Wow.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best, and I paraphrase here–the problem is not that we love other people too much, but that we love God too little.  If we would only see that by giving our entire heart to God, in the end we have more heart with which to love others.

Soul–Okay, what in the world does that mean?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  But perhaps we can find some clues in what it is not.  It’s not dealing with our affections and desires–that’s our heart.  It’s not our intellectual and reasoning skills or our mental capacity to live and work–that would be our mind.  And, obviously, it’s not dealing with the physical realm of life–that would be our strength.  I think we can safely conclude that while the soul remains a bit elusive, at it’s core it has to do with values, priorities, and worship.

Is is REALLY God that occupies the highest place in our lives?  Really?  Is he the first priority, first thought, and foundation of all our thoughts, words, and actions?  Is he truly the focus of my worship…or do I say that (and perhaps even believe it) but live in such a way it is clear that really my family, career, hobbies, lusts, or something else hold the top spot?

Mind–How do I love God with my mind?  By meditating on his word.  By not wasting my mind on meaningless and trivial things.  By using the intellectual and reason that I’ve been given for good.  By maximizing my mental capacity to understand the will of God in my life.  And maybe a part of that is not making a habit of mind-numbing practices like drugs, excessive alcohol, or too much television (ooh…someone’s not going to like that…legalism, legalism!).  Take it to Jesus.

Strength–Am I taking advantage of my youth?  Am I taking advantage of my age?  Am I giving God the best years of my life?  Or am I waiting until the best has passed…and only then giving God what is left.  Through the OT the Israelites were reminded to give the first fruits and the best of their flocks as their offering to God.  We must do the same in all things.

Likewise, Jesus didn’t just say “love you neighbor.”   He to love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself–treat him or her the way you would want to be treated and show them the same respect you expect of yourself.  The saying goes that we often judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.  That’s a no-go in God’s Kingdom–we just afford others the same lee-way we give to ourselves.

And finally, Jesus takes away the remaining loop-hole by defining for us who is our neighbor.  It’s not just the family next door, the people with whom it is to your advantage to live peaceably.  No, your neighbor is the person in need, the man you’ve been taught to hate, the woman who deserves nothing.  It’s the person you see everyday…but rarely pay attention to.

See Jesus spent a lot of time telling us how to really accomplish those two seemingly simple laws–loving God and loving neighbors; and his explanations left the people of his day scratching their heads, just as we continue to do today.  Love my enemies?!?  Pray for those who persecute me? What do you mean with that story about the Good Muslim?  Some people just don’t deserve forgiveness, let along continual forgiveness.  Don’t judge anyone?  Come on, that’s our favorite past time!

If we were to really “live as Jesus lived” (1 John 2:6), what would that look like? I’ll let you think on that one.

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