Sunday

11 July 2010

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself." (v.27)

Background

The lawyer in this story is out to challenge Jesus, to test him, to see if his claims to speak for God are true. To be a 'lawyer' in Jesus' day meant to be an expert in the Scriptures - what we today would see as a religious teacher. Jesus recognises this expertise and draws out of him the answer to his own question. It is the lawyer who summarises the Jewish Scriptures with the famous saying about loving God and loving your neighbour. But it is Jesus' own teaching and actions which demonstrate just how hard human beings can find it to keep the balance between loving God, loving neighbour and loving self.

The phrase about loving your neighbour as yourself has caused a lot of discussion in the Church. It is worth reflecting on what it does not say. It does not say love your neighbour as much as you love yourself, but rather as you love yourself. The focus is not on how we feel (ie Do I have the same emotion for my neighbour as I do for myself?) but on how we act (ie Do we demonstrate the same care for others that we do for ourselves?) Jesus' own words in Matthew 7:12 about "do[ing] to others as you would have them do to you" spring to mind.

The conversation with the lawyer leads to the parable of the Good Samaritan (verses 29-37), which is then followed by the incident with Martha and Mary (verses 38-42). In the parable, the Samaritan is commended for going out of his way to show practical love to an injured man. Although the reading for today stops at the end of the parable it does help to read it alongside the following story.

Martha is wearing herself out trying to show practical care for others and is encouraged to copy Mary in sitting at Jesus' feet. Could it be that holding both these stories in our minds might help us to understand better what it means to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbours as ourselves?

To Ponder

Looking back over the last week, how well have you balanced the need to love God, to love others and to take proper care of yourself?

Who are the neighbours that you and your church could care for? Are you doing enough for them? Are you focusing on practical care to the exclusion of sitting at Jesus' feet? What might you change?

Bible notes author: Revd Judith Rossall

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