July 23, 2018
In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Curt Ankeny reminds us that even though we can’t “earn our way into heaven by our good works,” we still have a duty to act justly. The prophet Amos, for instance, excoriates God’s people for acting unjustly, “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor” (2:6–7). And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously quoted Amos: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream” (v. 24).
Or to put it another way, when an expert in the Law tested Jesus, asking, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:36–39).
Author Richard Beck asks whether “the Greatest Commandments are referring to two separate loves – a love toward God and a second love toward our neighbor – or a single, united love.” People who believe these are separate commandments argue that “when we come to love God more and more ... this will naturally flow over into loving our neighbors more and more. Theoretically, I agree with that. But far too often in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, I see Christians getting stuck on loving God without that translating into loving their neighbors.”
Beck argues that it might help us make more of a difference in the world if we hear Jesus’ reply as two commandments for a single love.
We love God by loving our neighbor.
Curt adds, “Jesus told us that if we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, and do other loving acts that it is just as if we have done those actions directly to him.” And Curt offers this suggested prayer: “Jesus, help me to focus on things that are important to you and to seek justice.”
P.S. Seeds of hope – the three-year campaign to fund the ministry of Barclay Press by developing new titles, supporting small churches, and balancing the budget – has a goal of raising $162,000 by December 31, 2020. In order to stay on target, we need to get to $34,859 by August 1, 2018. As of this morning, we have raised $30,185 in gifts and pledges.