Take Jesus at His Word
John 4:50 - Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
If the Royal Official Could
The royal official did not first wait for a miracle before he believed. He did not wait for Jesus to first “prove himself” worthy of trust. He took Jesus at his word. He believed Jesus. Jesus told the man his dying son would live. That was all the official needed from the Lord. To be sure, Jesus did not owe the man such kindness, but he was pleased to bless him anyway. That is the definition of grace.
How I wish this verse described me more. To take that step of faith, without prior confirmation of the desired result, can be frightening. Yet I sometimes find myself still wanting that confirmation in advance. Sometimes the Lord is pleased to throw me a bone, despite my small faith. But he would rather have me remember the hundreds upon hundreds of ways he has already proved himself capable and faithful to me and my loved ones throughout my life.
A Work in Progress
And yet I am encouraged. Despite my shortcomings the Lord is still drawing me closer to himself and conforming me more and more to the image of his Son. Slowly (so very slowly) I am maturing in my faith. The trust I long for comes more often than when I first began my pilgrimage. Is that your story too? Can you relate to that?
How precious it is to believe, and then have the eyes to see the blessing and the hands to receive it. The royal official believed first, then experienced the miracle. This is not a presumptuous faith, holding God to promises he never made. It is a dependent faith, one that cries out to God, “My hope is in you and you alone O Lord”.
Prayer and Scripture must undergird our growth in Christ. Reading God’s Word, reminding ourselves daily of his goodness and greatness, and then praying and meditating upon it builds us up with encouragement and confidence for both present and future faith. And this is needed. With such confidence in God, many throughout Scripture were able to face impossible odds and come out victorious on the other side. The nature of our victories may vary, but we too may be confident when we take the Lord at his Word.
Romans 1:21 - For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Much has been made over the last few years regarding the emergence of militant atheism’s evangelistic crusade to rid the world of ignorance. Specifically, these crusaders want to enlighten the minds of the masses who still believe God exists. For these spokesmen for atheism, belief in God is intellectually unsustainable and should by all means be abandoned. Not only that, these atheistic evangelists believe a person’s commitment to belief in God is actually harmful to children as well as to civilization as a whole.
Thankfully, their charges have been sufficiently answered at every turn by faithful Christian apologists. The atheists are getting all the press, but their arguments are unable to stand up to the Light of Truth.
A More Dangerous Breed of Atheism
Yet there is a more prevalent form of atheism that lurks in our land. Indeed, it can even be found in the church. It is what Cornelius Van Til called, “practical atheism.” A practical atheist is a person who professes to believe in God, and yet the God whose existence is professed does not seem to make any meaningful difference in that person’s daily life. His beliefs, values, morals, and actions are not prioritized by his supposed belief in God’s existence. Put another way: If this person was to wake up one day and decide he no longer believed in the existence of God, his life would change very little. This is practical atheism.
In Romans 1:21, Paul describes the person who has suppressed the truth he knows about God. Paul says that, in truth, all people know God exists. In fact, they even know things about his power and majesty. Yet, in order to maintain a certain way of living, they alter their belief system to accommodate their lifestyle. Like the hard atheist who formally declares there is no God, practical atheists deny God by the way in which they live their lives. Paul teaches us that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…”
God at the Center
We glorify God when we seek to live purposefully and intentionally for him each day. We glorify God when we live to please, honor, obey, love, represent, bear witness to, and imitate him. That’s what a God-glorifying, God-informed life looks like. It’s also a life that is grateful to God for his goodness. This is more than tossing out a “thank you” every now and then at the beginning of a meal. Instead, it’s more of an all-encompassing attitude of gratitude. It becomes pervasive in one’s personality. This attitude glorifies God because it exalts God as the One who is worthy of such affection and appreciation.
How are you doing with this? Are you seeking to glorify God and be thankful to him in all things? Of course, none of us is perfect at this. We can all get fairly self-absorbed and self-centered in the goings on of our lives. We all, from time to time, become too preoccupied with lesser interests.
Yet the One who should be our greatest interest has told us we are to have no other gods before him. We are called to seek him first and foremost. We are instructed and encouraged to be holy because God is holy. His existence, in other words, should play a profound role in the lives of those who profess to believe in and follow him. He should be our ultimate influence and his influence should saturate every sphere of our lives, for his glory and our good.
Heavenly Father, the whole of creation testifies to your existence. It’s truly amazing what we have to go through to deny that you are there and are not silent. And yet, you are the God who is not to be merely believed in. Instead, you are the Triune, personal God who calls us into a relationship with yourself. You first loved us, not because we were so good, but because you are. You are our loving Father who is worthy of our love and devotion. Indeed, to know and love you is to seek to become increasingly like you and obey your commands. In my own strength I will fall short of this. Therefore, loving Father, I humbly ask you to please fill me with your Holy Spirit and spur me on to greater and greater love for you. And, I pray, this love for you will influence every sphere of my life so that, one day, my whole life will be a shining testimony of your glory. In Christ I pray. Amen.
Allegiance to Christ
John 8:23-24, 31-32 - But [Jesus] continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
To the Point
Jesus rarely, if ever, beat around the bush. Time was precious to him, so he usually cut straight to the chase. He knew how to get the attention of his hearers. In our Scripture, Jesus shares with those to whom he is speaking several important facts about them and the world in which they lived.
Faith in Action
True, biblical, and God-glorifying faith in Christ has teeth to it. It’s got a practicality that demands to be noticed. It’s unlikely the early church was so heavily persecuted and martyred simply because they intellectually accepted particular truth-claims about Jesus and then told others they needed to do the same to go to heaven.
Instead, because they believed Jesus was who he claimed to be and thus loved and followed him, they therefore obeyed him. Put another way: They put their faith into practice.
As their faith in Christ permeated every sphere of their lives they began to be noticed by the worldlings around them. It was this authentic non-conformity to the world around them that led to their persecution. They refused to be “squeezed into the mold” of this world.
The Shape of Discipleship
If we would be people of the truth, we must be Christ’s disciples. If we would be his disciples, we must believe in him, trust him, and obey him. Nothing less is worthy of the One who is the true Lord and King of the universe, which includes this world.
The “Pretenders to the Throne” notwithstanding, (their reign, after all, is temporary), our allegiance must be to Christ alone. And that allegiance has a shape to it. It is not mere intellectual ascent of a few doctrinal propositions (though it includes that). It is not simply a warm-fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is far more. Allegiance to Christ is incarnational. It has skin on it. It has teeth to it. If we would be his, we must submit to his Lordship – his absolute authority – by obeying him in every sphere of our lives. Only then can we rightly claim to be his disciples.
What's Your Reputation?
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:7)
You have probably heard the definition of character as, “who you are when no one is looking.” You could also say that character is who you are when those who know you best are looking.
In the second chapter of The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz looks at what it takes to build a good reputation. This is rather a tricky area because some folks may enjoy a good reputation superficially because they’re able to reasonably fake it before people they don’t know well and with whom they associate only on an occasional basis. But living a life that builds a good reputation is hard to fake on a regular basis with those who know you best… such as the members of your family.
Let me hasten to add that the expectation here is not perfection. As one person I recently read put it, the idea here is direction, not perfection. The question is: Are you moving in a Christlike direction in your life? Is that your intention?
In our Scripture, Paul recommends to Timothy that the kind of person he should be looking for to exercise leadership in the church ought to have a good reputation. Christians are charged with hypocrisy enough as it is. And even if the charge isn’t always accurate, the mere perception can derail a life or a ministry. Worse still, we don’t want to misrepresent our Lord before a watching world.
Getz suggests that Timothy was such a person… a man with a good reputation. He highlights these three indicators…
1. People were saying positive things about Timothy.
2. More than one person was saying these positive things about Timothy.
3. People in more than one location were saying these positive things about Timothy.
It seems wherever Timothy was and whomever he was with, Timothy was a godly man living above reproach. Thus, he enjoyed a good reputation.
Getz suggests that if you really want to know your reputation (as it relates to your genuine character) ask someone who knows you best. This might sting a little, but it’s a good way to get an honest and accurate perception of who you are… and it will go a long way in helping you become the godly person you want to become.
Just as important, we occasionally need to conduct a personal assessment of who we are and what we’re about. Getz suggests asking yourself the following questions (these are great questions, by the way)
1. Do more and more people select me as a person to share their lives with?
2. Do people trust me with confidential information?
3. Do my relationships with people grow deeper and more significant the longer they know me and the closer they get to me? Or do my friendships grow strained and shallow as people learn what I am really like?
4. Does my circle of friends grow continually wider and larger? Do an increasing number of people trust me?
5. Do people recommend me for significant or difficult tasks without fear of my letting them down?
The point in all of this is not to build a reputation by duplicity and manipulation. To be sure, there are plenty of people doing that. Instead, our goal should be that as we grow in godliness, the authenticity of our increasingly Christlike character will be made evident to all. And that’s how we can represent our Lord well in this world.
Ultimately, those of us who are in Christ are seeking to advance the glory of our Lord’s reputation, and not our own. But we can’t avoid the connection that our reputation will be linked to his, so let us live lives above reproach and for his praise and glory.
On Reading to Your Children
A New Preface
When I first wrote this post, I think my oldest child was about twelve years old. She is now 25 years old, having double-majored in English and Philosophy and presently teaching high school juniors and seniors Literature and Rhetoric. My second oldest just graduated from college, while my third child finished his freshman year of college last week and my youngest, a high school freshman, will complete his freshman year later this week. Needless to say, a lot of years and “stuff” have transpired since I first wrote this post. Yet what fun it is to be on this side of things and to be able to now observe and comment on the fruitfulness of reading to my children when they were younger… fruitfulness I could have only dreamed of at the time.
“Leave me not, O gracious Presence, in such hours as I may today devote to the reading of books. Guide my mind to choose the right books and, having chosen them, to read them in the right way. When I read for profit, grant that all I read may lead me nearer to Thyself. When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from Thee. Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.” John Baillie
What Did We Read to Our Kids?
Over the years, my wife, Suzanne, and I have been asked what we were reading to our children. In truth, that happened more when the kids were younger. Eventually, our children began to read books I couldn’t pronounce. At any rate, I thought I would take this time to share a little with you about what our reading time with the kids used to look like when they were younger.
I started reading to Natalie when she was around two years old. (All the years are beginning to run together.) After the requisite children’s books that we all read to our children (Little Engine That Could sort of stuff), we embarked on chapter books when she was around three or four. We started reading the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. The first book of the series, which is entitled, The Boxcar Children, was first published in 1942. I much preferred reading older books to the children because they were not so saturated in contemporary popular slang. And really, our kids are going to be knee-deep in that stuff sooner than we want, so what’s the rush?
Chronicles of Narnia
After reading a good number from that series, we started reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Dylan, who was then around three or four by that time, began to join us for these great stories. Now, to be sure, he did not pick up on every little nuance (nor do most adults for that matter), and sometimes he tuned out, or even fell asleep. However, quite often he tracked along with the story just fine (doing better as he got older). Of course, a quick review at the conclusion of each chapter was essential. It was a way for Dylan, Natalie, and Daddy to discuss what happened in that chapter as well as to talk about the important themes we found there.
For Christmas 2004, Suzanne and the kids gave me a gift of about 11 or 12 Lamplighter children’s books (which I loved as much as the children, by the way). These books were written in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. They are gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, character-building, interesting, exciting, and uplifting stories that were a huge hit around our home for both the kids, as well as their parents. There are many more to purchase in this series (they are continually finding old books to republish).
At some point during the middle of reading through the Lamplighter series, we took time out to read John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress (in modern English). I must say, even with the updated English, it was tough terrain. It was hard work to keep the kids tracking with the story. The review after, (and sometimes during), each chapter was absolutely vital for the kids to follow along and understand the book. However, it also was a big hit and Natalie said in her late teens that it was her favorite book we read when she was younger. It took us quite a while to complete, but we persevered, and it was worth the effort.
After The Pilgrim’s Progress, we returned to our Lamplighter series. Let me add that these books appeal to both boys and girls alike (If you visit their website, you will notice their catalog lists books for younger boys, older boys, younger girls, older girls, etc.). We’ve taken the time to go back and forth between them, and regardless of whether the main character is a boy or girl – the kids still love the stories. I ought to add that I loved this series, not only because it was not inundated with contemporary slang, but because the vocabulary was so rich. These books were written in a more literate culture and there’s not so much “dumbing down” as there is trying to lift the standards of the reader. Definitely a plus. And… we like these books not only because of those lofty reasons, but because the stories are really entertaining.
A Lesson and Regret
One of my, “I wonder if that was a good idea” books, was Robin Hood. I thought it would be a good swashbuckling, adventurous story. And, in many ways it was. But it didn’t flow terribly well, and we ended up reading only some of the chapters sporadically.
I miss reading to my children as I used to do when I first wrote this post. They have gotten older. As my younger two came on the scene, we started reading together too. But it really is true that things around the home change and I never ended up reading as much to my younger two as I did to the older two. I have always regretted that, but thankfully, because we homeschool, they have ended up reading many of the same sorts of books for their classes, so I’m grateful for that. But the time bonding together and developing our parent/child relationship was missed out on. I’ve looked for other ways to cultivate my relationship with them to make up for what was lost through less reading together. I do hope one day I’ll be a grandfather so I can start this whole process over again with them.
Why Read to Your Children? Five Reasons
Why read to your children? NBC use to show a public service announcement that recommended reading to your children at least 10 times a week. And what they say is true… it is a great bonding time. Reading together meant all the world to our family. But Suzanne and I also have these reasons as well…
1.) First and foremost, we want to impart a biblical worldview into the hearts, minds, and souls of our children. As parents we have a commandment from God to disciple our children for Christ and this is a fun and effective way to do it. We want to help prepare them to face the world once they leave our care.
2.) We wanted to pass on a love of reading to our children. I didn’t get excited about reading until much later in my life, and I wanted to do everything I could to ignite a fire in my children to love reading as early as possible.
3.) We wanted to help give our children an eye toward discerning the differences in literature – between the bad, the good, and the best.
4.) We wanted to magnify their imaginations, creativity, and ability to think. TV is such a passive activity. Reading requires more work…and produces more fruit.
5.) It’s just plain FUN!!!
Basically, we are charged with providing a covenant home and raising covenant children. Deuteronomy 6 exhorts covenant parents to raise their children in the faith all throughout the day – when the children rise, as they move throughout the day, and as they prepare for bed in the evening. Nurturing your children in the faith doesn’t have to be drudgery. Reading is a wonderful way to show your children how our Christian faith plays out (or should play out) in the real world…even in the context of imagination.
Best of all, all these years later, I can say that I have seen much of the fruit I had always prayed for, coming to fruition now that my kids are adults. And that’s hard to beat.
Just Being Honest
Hit with a Blunt Object
Have you ever met a person who believed they were given the spiritual gift of bludgeoning people over the head with their “honesty?” Are you such a person?
Such people appear to be focused only on what they “think” their intention is, which, as they might put it, is... “just being honest.” They wield their “honesty” like a “Get out of jail free card” to say what they want, when and how they want to say it. They seem to think they can be as offensive as they desire, as long as they follow their remarks with, “Hey, I’m just being honest.” Or, as others might put it, “I’m just keeping it real.” Once this magical incantation is invoked, at least to them, they should be absolved from all they’ve just said, regardless of how hurtful or insulting it may have been.
Three Helpful Questions
Perhaps you have heard the following questions before, but I wanted to share them because I have found them helpful in my own life. These are questions I ask myself before I decide to share my own unsolicited “honesty” with others.
1.) Is it true? Obviously, if you’re going to pass on your thoughts to someone else, you should be communicating the truth. Whether it’s objective truth, or even the truth of your opinion, it should be true. The 112th question and answer of The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:
Question: What is required in the ninth commandment?
While this is certainly helpful for us in thinking through our communication with others, this ought not be all there is to it. There are at least a couple more things for us to consider.
2.) Is it kind? Are your remarks bearing the fruit of Christian kindness? Are they words that will be a blessing and encouragement to the other person? Even if hard words must be spoken, we can still say them in such a way that will make it clear to the person to whom we’re speaking that we have their best interest at heart and not merely our personal agenda.
3.) Is it necessary? Does the person you are “being honest” with need to know you don’t like what they’re wearing, or how they’re raising their children, or how they decorate their house for Christmas? We may desperately want to share our opinions on all those issues and more, but that’s not the same thing as their need to know it.
As a Christian, truth and honesty should be paramount, yet not for the sake of merely sharing our own opinions, but for the sake of helping the other person. If God is not glorified in the transaction of honesty and truth, and if the purpose of the exchange is not the genuine benefit of the other person, then we’re not doing much more than sharing our opinions for the sake of lifting up ourselves. In which case, we should just keep our opinions to ourselves.
Pursuing Our Purpose
A Clear Purpose
“Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”
With these words from Deuteronomy 11:1, God, through Moses, gave Israel a purpose. Her purpose was to “love God and obey him… always.” That’s a pretty clear purpose. Solomon summed it up like this in Ecclesiastes 12:13,
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
But there’s more to it. It also included a “here’s what it looks like” portion. If the Israelites would be obedient to God, they would take possession of the land – the Promised Land – which God had set before them. Obedience would be tough, the risk may be great, but God assured them it would be worth their effort. More importantly, he promised to be with them always and never forsake them. In Deuteronomy 11:11-12 we read:
But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.  It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
Love and Obey
The blessing of obedience to God’s covenantal commands was that Israel would get this coveted land and more. The curse of disobedience was that she wouldn’t… and more.
Obedience is an essential part of purpose. We can’t wiggle out of it in the New Testament, even though we know we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. Why? Because Christ reminds us multiple times in John 14 and 15, as well as in 1 John, that an expression of our love for him is doing what he says… it’s obeying his commands. This is to our Father’s glory, that we bear much fruit (John 15).
What would be the point of knowing God’s purpose for your life – the very reason for which you were created – if you didn’t pursue it? It’s only as we reveal our love for God by obeying him that we experience God’s blessing for our lives – which may take on a variety of manifestations as we travel down the path of righteousness.
But can any of us hope for more than the knowledge that the eyes of the Lord are continually on our purpose, from the beginning to the end? And it’s as we trust and obey God’s commands and pursue that purpose that we find ourselves aligned with his will for our lives, which is blessing enough for any of us.
Thanks be to God.
J.I. Packer’s book, Rediscovering Holiness, is an extraordinary book. Holiness is a topic that is near and dear to Wesleyans (at least, it used to be… and still ought to be). It certainly was to John Wesley, and Packer “tips his hat” to both Wesley brothers throughout the book.
Of particular interest in the first chapter was Packer’s distillation of J.C. Ryle’s “12 Point Profile” of what a holy person looks like. It’s fantastic! I thought I would share bits and pieces of his list with you below. The Apostle Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves to see if we are “in the faith.” I can think of no better list with which to measure yourself than the following excerpts from Ryle.
I pray the following truths will bless, encourage, convict, and lead you to greater holiness in your daily life. Print this out or write these on an index card and prayerfully reflect upon each one. You don’t get extra credit for hurrying through this list. So, take your time and let the Spirit do his work as you meditate upon each one. Let the truth of it really sink in and move in and through you.
1.) Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find his mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what he hates, loving what he loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of his Word…
Lofty standards indeed, but biblical ones all the same. How are you doing when you compare yourself to this list? I always feel the need to counsel people who read such lists that if you are squirming as you compare yourself to a list like this, let the conviction you feel do its work, but not condemnation. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). But that verse is not a “get out of jail free card” that relieves us of our pursuit of holiness.
Instead, like Pilgrim learned in Pilgrim’s Progress, the crushing experience he had as he climbed Mount Sinai was more than he could bear. He needed the Cross. He needed his enormous bag of sinful burden to roll off his back and into the empty tomb. So do we. Let Ryle’s list, and others like the Sermon on the Mount, some of the Apostle Paul’s lists, etc., encourage you to run to grace and the forgiveness and strength available to us there in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Hebrews 13:7-8 - Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
No Expiration Date
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is unchangeable. What blessed consolation there is in these words. What challenge there is in these words.
If our Lord is the same today as he was yesterday, then that means what he said 2,000 years ago about himself and his work remains true to this very day. He has overcome the world. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. He is living water. He is the bread of life. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the door. He is the gate. He came to bring life. He came to save sinners. He came to bear witness to the truth.
His words of exhortation to believe and receive all these truths about himself (and more) are just as true, binding, and life-transforming for us today as when they were first spoken. And they will continue to be so 2,000 years from now, should our Lord wait that long to return. His promises are trustworthy because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
A Larger Perspective Needed
When I consider the saints who have gone before us and read their words about our Lord, I am moved by the fact that, regardless of the century in which their words were written, there is a vital and familiar thread that runs throughout. It’s not simply because those who wrote were merely using the same vocabulary to describe Christ. It’s much more intimate than that. Instead, they were describing someone they knew – someone who does not change with the tides of time and place. Span the centuries and you will find the Lord Jesus being written about, adored, and worshipped with striking continuity and intimacy.
We would do well to imitate those faithful saints who traveled the way of Christ before us. Our vision of our Lord, when confined to our time and place alone, can become myopic and limited. It’s easy for us to grow accustomed to his face. Instead, we need to step outside our surroundings and see a bigger, more beautiful Jesus. We need to cross the generations to discover what others have said about our Lord and learn how their thoughts and lives were transformed and renewed because of him.
I love to read the works of the saints who lived, served, and died over the last 500 years (though, admittedly, that too can be limiting). I want to learn from those giants of the faith, whose lives, ministries, and teachings have stood the test of time. They have much to teach me today in my narrow little place in history.
I encourage you to do the same. Aside from time in God’s Word, there are few better ways to occupy your life of study and mediation than to read Christian biography. The lives of those who traveled with our Lord in the past can serve you as you travel with him in the future.
Eternal God, you are the one, true God of the past, present and future. Your Son is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I give you praise and thanks that the promises you made in the past are just as true today and will be tomorrow as well. I bless you that what was true about you in the days of the Apostle Paul were just as true when you spoke to Abraham. And praise God, they are just as true today. You and you alone, are worthy of trust because you are the one, true God, and you do not change. Please fill me with your eternal Spirit and keep me close to you today, tomorrow, and forever. In Christ I pray. Amen.
The Shape of Love
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
We are able to love God and others because, the Bible tells us, God first loved us (1 John 4:7, 10-12, 16). Think of our love for others as an overflow of God's love for us. When we receive the love of God, we can't help but love God and others.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he had over 600 commandments to choose from. The Israelites had a lot of commands they were commanded to obey in the Old Testament. Would Jesus say, "Do not murder" is the most important? Would he answer, "Have no other gods before God" was the primary commandment? No, instead, he summed up the Ten Commandments by saying, the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then, he said, and the second most important commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
By commanding us to love God and our neighbors, Jesus summed up the main points of the Ten commandments. The Ten Commandments show us what this love looks like. The first four commandments emphasize our love for God, while the last six focus on neighbor-love.
But even there, we think we're obeying these commands by NOT doing something we're commanded not to do. But the commandments mean so much more. For example, not only are we NOT to murder another person, but we are to have their best interest at heart and try to help them when we can. There's a positive side of every command, just as there is a negative side.
The Good Samaritan not only committed no harm to the injured Jewish man (The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, as groups of people). But the Samaritan did more than "not hurt" the Jewish man, he helped him. He put the Jewish man's needs before his own. He went out of his way to help him and then made sure that if more was required, that too would be taken care of. Jesus is telling us that that is what our love for others should look like.
That's the shape of Christian love. And most importantly, that's how God loves us. We aren't called to love others because they deserve it any more than God loves us because we're so awesome. We love others because the grace-filled love of God flows in and through us so that we can love others with God's love. Thanks be to God for his love. Amen.