Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 16:6-10
The story of the Bible reveals relationships as the most vital aspect of human existence. Jesus Christ, as the Word made flesh, reinforces this when He summarizes the entirety of biblical instruction as being two responsibilities: loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. The centrality of love – which is both the essence of who God is and the reason and purpose for which we were created by God – is experienced and shared through our relationships.
Relationships are not static. They don’t just happen. To be in relationship with another requires movement and engagement. Jesus underscores this by framing the Greatest Commandment through a metaphor that is geographical. The relationships we are to enter into – the love we are to give, receive and share – is not confined to our family or our people. We are to love our neighbor; the person who is in proximity to us. That person could be anyone – a sister, a friend, a stranger, a foreigner – even an enemy.
Just in case we have any doubts or reservations this is in fact what Jesus meant when He boiled down the entirety of what the Bible is about; Jesus gives us the Great Commission. Having both uniquely accomplished and definitely modeled what the integration of love of God and love of neighbor looks like through the work of the Cross and the Resurrection, Christ now tells us to go and do likewise. “Make disciples” Jesus says. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
In other words, we are to immerse others in the relationship we share with Jesus by being in relationship with others. We are to invite others to follow us in following Christ by learning together how to love and to be loved through Him. Love, as the scriptures repeatedly emphasize, is more than a feeling; it is a choice and a commitment – both the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission.
What we are being called to is much more than a lifestyle. Loving our neighbor means more than mustering prayers or even donations for anonymous others. Hence, the significance of movement in Jesus’ charge to us. Geography, once again, is underlined as Jesus sends us “to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” These relationships borne of love are to be played out in the very real and concrete proximity of our neighborhoods.
We have to be willing to cross the street. We must be open to building bridges rather than reinforcing walls. Our vision has to be larger than the benefit of our own community; it must encompass the Lord’s desire for the welfare of the city, the nation and the world. We need to be attentive and responsive to the opportunities the Spirit puts right in front of us. Each opportunity represents the potential for building relationship and the possibility both for expressing and receiving Christ’s love.
As we reach the end of our sermon series focused on loving our neighbors like Jesus, I encourage you to come and listen to a powerful story of what all this looks like in practice. Catch the vision of how Christ is already moving and even now at work in our own backyard. What we’ll hear together will be an invitation into relationship – a sacred opportunity to love our neighbor like Jesus and to be loved by Jesus through our neighbors. I hope and pray we’ll embrace this invitation together as a community – one I am convinced is a divine appointment for us to live into the Great Commandment and to live out of the Great Commission.
Grace to you!