Red Letter Year: 5/17

Matthew 22:34-46

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

41 Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They replied, “He is the son of David.”

43 Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ 45 Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”

46 No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.


The Two Commandments Jesus gives here warrant a good deal of reflection. Here are a couple of ideas to help you in that. First, God is love and love is an action, which means whenever we carry out an act of love we are participating in the life of God and are enabled to act as such by God. There is no love outside God, because God is love. Second, loving God, loving neighbor, and loving self are not separate activities here, rather they are different aspects of the same activity and are intrinsically related to one another. If we cannot love our neighbors, our claims to love God are false. And we cannot love neighbor outside the necessary relation to how we love ourselves. But we cannot love ourselves without carrying out that action in God (God is love). Much that passes for self-love is not, just as claims to love God among those who hate neighbors are false. Since God is love, God is always the initiator in loving acts, our loving acts are responses to God’s love and reflections of God’s love. We begin by receiving God’s love, accepting that God loves us, that no part of us is unloved by God or unimportant to God. God loves our minds. God loves our bodies. God loves our hearts. God loves our souls. Our acceptance of and gratitude for God’s love is how we keep the first command. This is also what it means to love ourselves: we learn to regard our own selves with the same love God has for us. This creates the condition wherein we can keep the second command.  Our recognition that every other person is also completely and unconditionally loved by God, just as we ourselves are, and that each person is thus worthy and deserving of our love (still a reflection of God’s love) shapes all our actions toward that neighbor, the neighbor who is the beloved. How can we but love such a one whom God loves so devotedly?

All this is of a piece and grows as such as we grow in our capacity to receive God’s grace that teaches us how to love ourselves, to love others as loved selves, and to reflect back the love given to us by the Essence of Love. As I said, this warrants a good deal of reflection.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “Red Letter Year: 5/17

  1. Wow, this drove me back to one of my favorite quotes from Richard Gaillardetz to reflect on: “The formal doctrine of the Trinity simply gave formal expression to the way in which Christians experienced this God in history and preeminently in Jesus of Nazareth. Conceiving the triune life of God as a dynamism of divine love reflects the essential insight of Trinitarian doctrine, namely, that God’s very being, what it is for God to be, is loving, life-giving relationality. God does not just have a love relationship with us, God is loving relationality…Greek Orthodox bishop and theologian John Zizioulas describes this Trinitarian vision of God as Being-as-Communion.”

    I also think that this informs both the depth and frailty of Vineyard ecclesiology: it is a relational ecclesiology.

  2. Great commentary Michael. the ‘as you love yourself’ is so underplayed these days. We think of doing for ourselves, buying stuff, having what we want, but that is not loving ourselves. It is much deeper than that…and until we can truly love ourselves we fall short on how to love others. Thanks for this discussion.

  3. “Second, loving God, loving neighbor, and loving self are not separate activities here, rather they are different aspects of the same activity and are intrinsically related to one another.” Great insight. Thanks Mike!

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