Chapter 4 Love.Life
In chapter 4 of One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, Scot moves into ‘Jesus Creed’ territory – a theme that has shaped his thinking and writing (and blog title). Namely, to follow Jesus finds its purpose and goal in Jesus’ reapplication of the Shema.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Following Jesus means that it isn’t enough to be right theologically, to pray, to read the Bible, if it does not lead to a twofold form of loving: loving God and loving others. [Deut. 6:4-5]
And a form of religion that is not marked by love tends to end up being institutionalist or legalistic, or focused on power and politics. The Jewish authorities of Jesus’ day had numerous laws (halakot) clarifying how exactly to keep the 613 laws contained in the Torah.
Scot argues that Jesus’ vehement criticism of them was because they had missed the whole point of Torah – to love God and neighbour. It created an ‘us and them’ of those who kept to the rules, and it led to hypocrisy in that those developing and applying the law could not keep it themselves.
A nice summary of the big picture here: when asked what was the most important commandment of the Torah (of the 613), Jesus’ response was to reduce the 613 (+halakot) to 2.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
To add rules is to marginalise love. Jesus reduces the 613 + halakot to 2 and centralises love as the goal of the entire law.
The first word, Scot suggests, that should come to mind when we hear the word kingdom, is love.
And so Scot encourages readers to take up the practice of reciting the Jesus Creed every day as a reminder that the whole point of being a Christian is to be a loving person. Such love for God and neighbour will work out in millions of different ways.
Scot says this “understanding of the Christian life was completely different from the one I had absorbed and made my own”
I have a couple more thoughts on this to post tomorrow, But staying with love …
There is a of course a huge overlap here with Paul and 1 Cor 13 – that without love Christians may as well pack up, go home and forget about this religious business. Just as with Jesus, everything revolves around and leads to love. Just consider Galatians 5:8
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Love is a big and central biblical theme. God is love. Following Jesus His people are to be defined by the love they show their neighbours (Lev.19:18; Matt.19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Rom.13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jas 2:8). Anyone who does not love does not know God (1 John 4:8). The primary evidence of the transforming presence of the Spirit in someone’s life is love. The purpose of the Christian life is to be transformed into the image of Jesus, the one in whom love is most supremely revealed.
All this should make Scot’s closing statement all the more remarkable – that somehow within church life love can get so marginalised and other things take its primary place.
What’s going on here?
I’m teaching a Masters course on evangelicalism all next week. It is too easy just to knock evangelicals – many many individuals and churches display lives of fantastic love and grace. But, generally speaking, love is NOT the first word that tends to be associated with evangelicals (whose very name means good news people) …
What ones would you associate?