Text Matthew 22:34-40
The world of sports is now used to setting and breaking of records. It has no place for mediocre or even average performers. The world craves for superstars like Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda or Usain Bolt. The average performers are overshadowed by the best. Its not that the average performers prepare less or even don’t do their best, but they are simply not as good as those who emerge as the best performers. Sometimes church is like that. We feel that may be church is not a place for me, after all I am not a good Christian. I have never gone to any mission trip, I don’t sing in the choir, I don’t pray as much as my friends do, I seem to do everything wrong all the time….
Have you ever wondered what it means to be “a good Christian?” If someone asked you, “are you a good Christian?” What would your answer be? Yes, no, or something like, hmmm well, let me see….. What does it mean to be a good Christian? Does it mean going to church regularly, giving your tithe, singing in the choir, going for mission trips? Sometimes, actually much of the time, being “a good Christian” can be an illusion.
Let’s turn to our text for today: Matthew 22:34-40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [NIV]
Pharisees were religious experts, the most respected people of that time. They were always competing with Sadducees, another religious group but who did not believe in the resurrection, or spirits and angels. On the other hand, the Pharisees were highly learned regarding the Law of Moses; they were regarded by the people as the holiest of all. Paul said that as a Pharisee he was blameless, he kept every single law. And do you know how many laws they were; ten? They were actually 613! Paul said that he kept every single one of them; can you imagine?! (Philippians). Jesus had a bad taste for Pharisees. Do you know why? Because God looks beyond our religious actions. He sees the intentions of the heart – our motives. It is not enough to impress people. Sometimes it is easy to be fooled by what people say about us. Ohhh Pastor Emma you’re so godly. As a pastor that’s a very nice complement but is it what God would say of me? Would he look right into my heart, beyond what other people see and say Emmanuel I commend you; you love me, you are humble and kind? Sometimes the things people recommend about us are manipulative mechanisms that we use to have our way. We sometimes act kind so as to have other people do the things we want them to do for us.
Back to our text, the Bible says the Pharisees came and asked Jesus a question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Would Jesus be able to figure out which one was greatest out of the 613? Would he zero on the Ten Commandments and just choose one? Don’t we somehow ask the same question? What is the most important aspect of Christian life? Or like I first asked, what does it really mean to be a good Christian?
This was Jesus reply: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (v.37)“
He was actually quoting a reference from the Book of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:8. Jesus said that these two laws summarized the entire Mosaic Law and were actually the basis, -the foundations for every other law.
What then does loving “God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” mean? We like to pick and choose how we are to love and honor God. Someone may say, I will honor you during Sunday Worship services but whatever happens between Monday and Saturday is between me and me. I will honor you with my skills and talents but not my money, or I will keep my relationships to myself. Actually the word integrity means to be whole – having every aspect of our lives intact – having nothing lacking. The opposite for integrity is hypocrite, which is derived from a Greek word meaning “stage actor.” When we don’t give God our all we are simplly living like stage actors; we are hypocrites.
Friends, God is looking for wholehearted lovers. Our ultimate goal is not to be good Christians but rather wholehearted lovers of Jesus Christ. When we faithfully love God, we will serve him faithfully, we will be committed to pleasing him, we will speak words that honor him. When we live in a wholehearted, loving relationship with God, perhaps others will look at us and say: “she is a good Christian.” God wants our all. When you love someone you don’t want to hurt her. You want to do things that make her feel great! You want to give your best to her. You don’t mind what other people say about her because she is your best friend. You are unconditionally committed to her – or at least that’s how it is supposed to be. You are always there for that person. You commit your time, your energy, and your resources for the sake of that person.
God is looking for our whole being, our minds, our hearts, and our strength – everything that we are. We are called to demonstrate our love for God in everything that we do. Whether we study, reason, relate,… anything. Walking with God means involving him in everything that we do. As I said, our ultimate goal is not to be good Christians but rather wholehearted lovers of Jesus Christ. God is looking for wholehearted lovers. My prayer is that you and I will be one of them.