Jesus teaches that loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself are the greatest commandments and that, indeed, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:40, NIV).
Likewise, James says that loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself is the royal law. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8, NIV). James is not advocating some kind of emotional affection for oneself. Rather the command is to pursue the spiritual health and physical wellbeing of one’s neighbor (all within the sphere of our influence) with the same intensity and concern as we naturally do for ourselves.
In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, he explains who our neighbor is. (See Luke 10:29-37.) Priests are ministers at the altar; they teach people the laws of God. Levites are charged with the care of the tabernacle and the Temple. So the priest and Levite, who passed by the injured man, are “Temple people,” religious authorities. But they show more concern for the routines, rituals, and forms of their religion than for a person who is in dire need of help. They lack internal godliness and obedience to God’s truth.
The Samaritan, who is not a “Temple person,” is the one who fulfills the royal law by caring for the injured man.
In our busy world, we too need to avoid being mere “church people,” going to and rushing out of church without ever interacting with people whose lives intersect with ours, finding no time to show active concern for those whose needs we could meet. God calls us, instead, to love and care for our neighbors as we love and care for ourselves.
Let us embrace Jesus’ new commandment to love one another as Jesus has loved us. (See John 13:34.)
Ruth and Psalm 146 share a thematic connection. Ruth is a foreigner who decides to follow the God of the Israelites, and the psalmist praises God for being the trustworthy God who cares about the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner. In Ruth, Boaz will demonstrate this kind of care for her. The New Testament readings focus on sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that Christ was both the greatest high priest and the eternal sacrifice. A scribe in Mark receives praise from Jesus, for he understands that the sacrificial system is less weighty than the act of loving one’s neighbor. Ruth and this scribe are examples of those, named and anonymous, who have come before us in the faith.
Read Ruth 1:1-18. When have you left the familiar behind to set out into the unknown? Where did you experience God’s presence and help in that situation?
Read Psalm 146. When have you witnessed God at work in the world in a way that gave you hope about an otherwise seemingly hopeless situation?
Read Hebrews 9:11-14. How does the redemption offered in Christ’s death free you to worship the living God? What form does your worship take?
Read Mark 12:28-34. What does it mean to you to love your neighbor as you love yourself? How do you act on that commandment in your everyday life?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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