Session #134 Agreeing & Aligning to Love
Scripture Matthew 22:34-40
Summary Matthew 22:34-40 records the third round of questioning against the Jesus. However, unlike the previous two, Jesus’ answer was totally consistent with the Pharisees’ position about the greatest commandment. That said, agreement does not necessarily mean alignment. This teaching considers what it truly means to love God and love others so that we do not merely agree but also fully align with Jesus our King.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40
In Matthew 22, the religious leaders confront Jesus, questioning His identity as the Christ and His authority. The Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sadducees all take turns to test Jesus with tough and tricky questions, in hope of tripping and trapping Him. In Matthew 22:15-22, the disciples of the Pharisees posed a question about taxes and in Matthew 22:23-33, the Sadducees questioned Jesus about the resurrection. In both cases, Jesus left them marvelling and astonished and even silenced. In Matthew 22;34-36, the Pharisees thought they were on safe ground by taking Jesus on with something they know best: the Law. By asking Jesus ‘which is the great commandment in the law?’, they hope that a careless or wrong reply by Jesus would render Him open to a charge of annulling the law and thus discrediting Him.
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 in his answer and linked both verses in weight and authority, that on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets and every other command is to be interpreted and lived out in light of these two commandments.
No reply was recorded in Matthew’s account but from Mark 12:32 and Luke 10:25-37, we can see that Jesus’ answer is consistent with what the Pharisees understood and believed. However, agreement does not necessarily mean alignment. The Pharisees agreed with Jesus where the greatest commandment was concerned but there was no alignment that Jesus was the Christ. Further, they may agree with the Law yet they can still be misaligned in the way they interpreted or applied it. Similarly, we can agree with kingdom truths and principles but still live misaligned, still not know our kingdom assignments or go about our assignments in the wrong way, with the wrong hearts.
Loving God and Loving Others
Agreement but misalignment in these two commandments in this passage is extremely dangerous as they are foundational to understanding and applying “all the Law and the Prophets’. There is no point agreeing with, memorising and quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 if we do not fully align with what these mean and how it is to be applied.
In this section, we will dive deeper by considering what loving God and loving others really mean so that we do not commit the same mistakes as the religious leaders – agreeing but misaligning and thus misapplying. We consider the following five questions:
Is Deuteronomy 6:5 a command to love God or an invitation to respond to God’s love?
The command to love is really an invitation to respond to God’s love. We love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19). It is in response to His love that we are able to love Him totally and exclusively. He deserves nothing less.
Is Leviticus 19:18 an expectation to love or an expression of God’s love?
We know that we are expected to love others but it may not be easy. This is why the second commandment cannot be understood or lived out apart from the first commandment. It is only with the love of God that we are able to love others. Conversely, the first commandment without the second is inconsistent. We cannot say that we love God and not love others (1 John 4:20). The expectation of love for others is ultimately an expression of God’s love in and through us.
Are you serving in a religion of works or serving out of a relationship of love?
We can be religious without loving God or others, being churchy because it is expected and required of us; having a form of godliness with no power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). If we serve out of a religion of works, we may be working for God’s love instead of from His love; working from our strengths, and instead of loving God and others, we love ourselves – accomplishments, status, power, influence etc. We need to examine our relationship with the Lord and go back to the love of God. Out of this relationship of love with and for God, we work not to gain extra favour or blessing but because we love Him and desire to please the One we love.
Are you motivated by a love for activities or moving on assignments of love?
Kingdom assignments are assignments of love – of loving God, loving Jesus and loving others. They are not just something to do but someone to love. We do what we do because we love Jesus and desire to obey Him and because our assignments always involve loving others directly or indirectly. We must be very careful not to confuse these assignments of love with our love for activities.
Are we to love ourselves so we can love others or deny ourselves to love others?
As Jesus’ disciples, we are called not to love ourselves but to deny ourselves and be ready to give up everything for His sake, including our lives (Matthew 16:25-26). In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul warns that in the last days, many will be ‘lovers of themselves’ and not ‘lovers of God’ and we are to turn away from such people. So what does ‘to love others as yourself’ in Leviticus 19:18 mean? The words ‘as yourself’ presume that one will instinctively love oneself and this command challenges us that in the same way you love yourself and seek your own welfare, direct that to the benefit of others (Matthew 7:12). Again, a proper and full understanding of God’s love enables us to love others as ourselves in the right manner.
Love fulfils the Law of Christ and reveals the Christ of the Law
Jesus revealed love as the basis of the law. The Christ of the Law sought not to displace the law with love but to recover love to its proper place in the law. It is not the priority of love over law but priority of love within the law.
Agreement is not necessarily alignment. The religious leaders agreed with Jesus’ answer but are misaligned in the way they interpreted and lived out these verses of loving God and loving others as themselves that Jesus will address soon in Matthew 23.
Similarly, we may also acknowledge Jesus as the Christ but still miss it if we are not careful. Some think that the law has been done away with and all we need is love. Others hold so tightly to the law and miss the imperative of love. We may be in agreement with God’s Word and yet be totally out of alignment with His heart and love.
Agreement is good and needful first step but after that, we must seek to align with Jesus and His Kingdom ways.