John 14:15-31; 2 Chronicles 21:2-22:12; Psalm 79
“Rule Number 1: The boss is always right. Rule Number 2: If the boss is wrong, refer to rule number 1.” We’ve all seen those two rules for getting along at work in one form or another and we have a good laugh. Sometimes the boss puts the sign up for a laugh, and sometimes, when the boss puts that sign up, people aren’t sure if he’s serious about it. We all know “cute” rules for getting along in life. My dad had a rule that he lived by to get the last word in any argument with my mom. He taught me that rule, and I wished I had remembered it the other night. His rule was that you can always get the last words in any argument with your wife by saying, “Yes dear.”
All kidding aside, we want to know the rules. We may not like some of the speed limits they put on the roads, but we want to know what they are so that we don’t speed inadvertently and get a ticket. Those things can get expensive. The Pharisees, in their quest to know and understand God developed 613 rules to live by. Paul dealt with the Galatians because after coming to know Jesus through His grace, they started trying to set up rules to live by, instead of living by grace. Jesus did give us some rules, or commands, if you will. His rules weren’t burdensome, like those of the Pharisees or the burgeoning rules for the Galatian Church. He just had two commands. If we love Him, we’ll keep those commands. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21)
Someone had asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was and Jesus replied with two. The first is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second command was to love your neighbor as yourself. He intensified the second rule in the upper room when He noted that the disciples, and all of His followers should love each other – that we would be known by our love. Those rules exemplify all that God wants from us. Jesus spoke about those two commands to the Pharisees whose rules became so stringent that they controlled everything you did. People didn’t need to love God, or to love people, because they followed the rules. The rules of the Pharisees led to judgment and condemnation; the rules of Jesus lead to freedom and love.
Loving God is easy, at least in theory. We may get mad at Him. Perhaps in our anger we might even yell at Him and tell Him we hate Him, but we usually come back to Him, sheepishly, with an apology. And He always keeps loving us, too. That loving your neighbor part, well, that’s hard. Loving your neighbor means that you want God’s best for them and will help that happen. I have a few cranky neighbors in my neighborhood. They don’t deserve my love, considering the way they treat me. God may love them, but my standards are higher. Uhm….oops. Maybe I’m wrong there. Maybe God wants me to love my neighbor the way He loves them. And Jesus made it clear that the key to loving our neighbor is not worrying about physical proximity, but recognize that we are called to be loving neighbors to all people. Let’s face it – there is no place in God’s plan for hatred of other people because they have a different color skin, or even because they have a different religion. And here’s the real kicker: we aren’t called to return hate for hate. When people hate us, for whatever reason that might be, we can’t hate them back. We’re called to love them back. If you think that’s hard, you’re wrong. It’s impossible – without the love of Jesus flowing through us. But just as Jesus loved those who hated Him, we are called to love those who hate us. In short, lover everyone, and let God sort out the differences.
Oh Lord, it sure is hard to love some people. Thank You for loving me when I was “some people.”