April 5th - first love
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 neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matt 22:34-40 (NKJV)
Any lawyer worth his/her salt is going to pose questions that cut to the heart of a matter. Answering a sharp lawyer can be a very tricky proposition--especially, if the person being interrogated has something to hide. Such a man, a lawyer, posed a question to Jesus--and, "Yes," he was trying to trap Jesus. The lawyer asked Jesus a very difficult question: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" I can see the Pharisees in the background smirking and giving a knowing nod to their colleague.
What the lawyer did not realize is that he was going up against God in the flesh--the author of the law. It would be like one of us going back in time and trying to argue the Theory of Relativity with Albert Eisenstein. So, Jesus answered the lawyer without missing a beat. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your heart...and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
The lawyer did not have much of a comeback after Jesus' answer. The Gospel of Luke has his follow-up question on the record: "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus then launched into the story of the Good Samaritan. For the lawyer this was like shooting an air-ball, getting the rebound only to have your next shot blocked.
We need to take Jesus' answer to heart--realizing that all the Law and the Prophets find their completion in these two commandments. It is possible to be very religious and not keep the greatest of the commandments. In writing to the Church of Ephesus, Jesus commended them for their perseverance, hard work and doctrinal stability...however, they failed on a grand scale, because they had wandered away from their first love.
It is very easy to become religious and slide away from our first love. To embrace strictures associated with religion while falling from relationship with God. To do good deeds and neglect the prayer closet. Time to renew the fires of passion and return to our first love.
Author's Note: I have been involved in full-time ministry my entire adult life. The demands of preaching and teaching require me to be a student of God's Word. In spite of the spiritual aspects of how I earn my keep--it is still possible, maybe even probable, that unless I make the pursuit of my first love a priority, I will drift away from my relationship with God. It's not as if I'm falling out of love with God--it's that life, with all of its activities and demands, simply calls my attention away. There is one "huge" problem with drifting away...you cannot give what you do not have. A spiritual connection with God cannot be faked. Time to jump back into the prayer closet. RJD