Thursday, June 6, 2013

Put God first, and you'll never be last

“God gave us free will, and then gave us the commandments to keep us free.”

Gospel text: (MK 12:28-34)
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

If you’re not surprised by Jesus’ words to the scribe, maybe you need to read this passage again! Over and over again, we see Jesus correcting or rebuking the members of Jerusalem’s religious establishment. But not this time. Instead, he listens respectfully to a man who has just asked him what might be another trick question, answers him carefully, and encourages him on his journey of faith.

So, how does this apply to us when we encounter people day in and day out, many of whom are very different from our self?

I think it is very tempting to give up on people who seem to be far from God. Yet like the scribe, they may be just one or two steps away! Its better that we do as Jesus did and meet people where they are instead of trying to judge their spiritual condition. It’s better, too, that we take heart from anything they say or do that reveals a desire for the Lord or an agreement with his words. Rather than despair—or condemn—it is far better to encourage and support.

For whoever loves God above all things and loves his neighbor as himself is not far from God.

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