Pastor's Note

Biblical Love

Words are important in our world today.

Words like PEACE are important in an age when Language has been weaponized.
When we have allowed ourselves to be categorized according to the world’s terms,
Not God’s terms

We fight TO be categorized in certain ways… actually… DON’T WE???
We fight to show others what and who we are aligned with.
Especially in the age of social media
When it’s so easy to share our opinions with the world.
WORDS are important

The ways in which we use them may have changed over time,
But words still matter,
Jesus makes that abundantly clear in our story today from John,
As he shares the news of his coming death and resurrection and gift of the Holy Spirit with his disciples.

And as He shares this news he is talking about WORDS,
John’s Gospel talks a lot about words,
But notice in this case Jesus is talking about lower case words.

Not the capital “Word” i.e. a name for Jesus as in the WORD became flesh.
But the actual words… which in this case would mean the Torah,
The first 5 books of the Bible.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

This is what Jesus as a Rabi, a teacher,
Would have been versed in, the TORAH
And we know he was an amazing teacher,
Since he was 12 years old in the temple, he’s been surprising the religious leaders

When he began his ministry in his hometown church,
Jesus chose his WORDS, very carefully.
He quoted words from the prophet Isaiah, saying;

He has come to help and support and fight to the death for;

And today as Jesus begins to prepare his disciples with the theological & religious tools they’ll need to make the transition from Disciple to Apostle.
That’s a process… a journey… & Jesus understands what he’s going to be asking these simple fishermen to do as they are sent out into the world after the 1st Easter!

So, Jesus chooses his WORDS very carefully.
And we have been in John’s gospel this entire Easter Season,
So, one word we have heard a lot of is love.

All You Need is Love, according to John

John would’ve been a huge Beetles fan.
For God so LOVED the world,
LOVE on Another just as I have LOVED you, you should LOVE one another

Last week Jesus said… POINT BLANK
This is how everyone will know you’re my disciples;
If you have LOVE for one another
Love love love, love, blah blah blah blah blah

OK… I get it… enough with the LOVE
But it begs the question… TODAY
In this day & age, in this era of social media,
In this time and place at 5701 Raymond Rd

What does BIBLICAL LOVE look like???
Because I don’t see a lot of LOVE out there on “Social Media”
There might be little LIKE buttons,
OH, and they may have even added a LOVE button back in 2016.

Which I know just blew everyone’s minds at the time.
Totally changed your online experience, AMAZING!!!
There may be a button…But on don’t see a lot of love online.

But during his time on earth, when GOD, THE WORD became flesh,
As Jesus was trying to build a foundation for his disciples.
And if you look back at our reading in your bulletin or on your phone.
Jesus points out or wants to make sure his disciples know,
That all the WORDS he has said, to TEACH & to PREACH & to HEAL…
All those WORDS aren’t his.

The Law

Those WORDS came from GOD… Directly from the TORAH
And he doesn’t want to change any part of the LAW OF MOSES
He came for the same purpose nearly every great prophet before him had come.
To fight for the POOR & OPPRESSED

And during his ministry we saw Jesus… This amazing teacher and prophet…
When questioned by lawyers in our story today,
Remember in 1st century Israel Lawyers would’ve been versed in the LAW.

Which obviously we don’t align ourselves with that today,
We align ourselves with the world’s laws,
America is a place that I grew up learning and being told is a JUST society.
Justice supposedly is BLIND in America,
IS synonymous with Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie & Chevrolet.

But this expert in the LAW asks Jesus to test him,
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the Greatest.”
And Jesus answers this question, as any good Rabi would, by quoting scripture,
You shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and 1st Commandment. And a second is like it: You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

But remember these words aren’t his…
Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6; Reciting the Shema…
Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
Almost a direct quote except for the MIND vs MIGHT thing,
Which is a whole other conversation,

But by saying this first sentence Jesus is implying this whole paragraph.
Likewise, Jesus answers the question by also quoting Leviticus Chapter 19.
Saying: You Shall Love your neighbor as yourself.
And remember this is a Rabbi talking to a bunch of Lawyers,
So by saying this one line… he knows… and they know…
That he is quoting this whole section of Leviticus.

And we LOVE ourselves some LEVITICUS in America don’t we!
I see LEVITCUS ALL over Social Media…
But Words are important… and since Jesus is quoting LEVITICUS
It is important for us to know what it says about a JUST SOCIETY.
A society where BIBLICAL LOVE is not only preached…
But more importantly practiced!!!

So Leviticus 19 says: 9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

11You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. 13You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. 15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. 17You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,

but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.


We see that BIBLICAL LOVE has a lot to do with JUSTICE.
But we don’t talk a lot about JUSTICE in the WESTERN Church.
Instead we talk about Righteousness.

A WORD, Righteous, that we get from the German WORD Gerecht.
It’s the Greek work Dikaiosune, that appears 32X in the New Testament.
As opposed to Justice which appears just 9X.

Jesus uses DIAKOSUNE almost as much as LOVE
In Mt he says: Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for Righteousness, they will be filled… & Blessed are those persecuted for Righteousness sake.
Which has always read kind of weird

A religious philosopher Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff comments how:
You never see someone being persecuted for being RIGHTEOUS
For being GERECHT, which means to be Morally Upright… and is concerned more with our private, individual behavior. As opposed to the wider community.

But when you look at ancient literature,
Like Plato’s Republic, which is a book about the character and order of a JUST SOCIETY and the JUST PERSON,
When you look at the way Dikaiosune, the Greek word was used by PLATO & other writers of that era you see it’s translated as JUSTICE, Not RIGHTEOUS.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for Dikaiosune
Blessed are those who are persecuted for Dikaiosune’ sake,
Blessed are those persecuted for Justice’s sake,
Blessed are those who thirst for Justice.

***Because Justice, according to these WORDS is what LOVE looks like when it is lived out in a JUST SOCIETY.***
It has a lot less to do with just hitting the LIKE button for your neighbor.
& more to do with what we’re called to do as God’s children in this time & place.

BIBLICAL LOVE has a responsibility to create a JUST society where there is Equity for everyone… The POOR & OPPRESSED

He knew how hard it would be for his disciples and for us to KEEP HIS WORDS.
To fight for a JUST SOCIETY after the FIRST EASTER,
To not be troubled… to not be afraid… they would need PEACE.

Not from trying to be more just and upright in society.
People don’t get persecuted for that.

Biblical Justice

But people do get persecuted for demanding JUSTICE in their society.
God’s People calling out where JUSTICE has been perverted in society.
People do get persecuted for challenging the status quo!!!
If we go back to the Prophet Micah, his greatest hit, he said:
O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

One author writing about Biblical Justice says: It is only done when the real harm to a victim or the social good is remedied. It seeks to restore the victim to his/her situation before the crime and restore the perpetrator to his/her humanity.
It goes beyond arguing that the response to an unjust act is punishment, restoration of moral balance, rehabilitation, warning to others, or the prevention of more injustice.
It seeks to restore to the victim or victims, the perpetrator and the wider society the PEACE or shalom that characterizes a just and good society.

And that is the battle of our times as Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Just as it has been since the very beginning for God’s people.
To create a Just Society. Where JUSTICE is blinded by the LIGHT of Christ.

In a society where a single mom who falsifies her address to get her child into a better school. One on the other side of the tracks, on the other side of the beltline,
Gets sentenced to 4 years in prison.
But a millionaire from Hollywood gets 4 months for bribing and cheating your kid’s way into an elite college.

Only Justice has a connection to Community, to the greater society around us.
And says there’s more to it than just your personal righteousness.
This is not a left leaning gospel, or a right leaning gospel,
It IS THE GOSPEL, and the STAKES are so high in our world today.

Working for a JUST SOCIETY… where BIBLICAL LOVE is the Law,
And you can’t get that anywhere else… WORDS MATTER!!!
And as God’s people in todays world we are called to expand the Dikaiosune,
A society where RIGHTEOUSNESS of the individual,
And JUSTICE in society exist on equal planes.

Where the Divine is seen through our society, & society sees Divinity in us.
Where Love is expressed on God’s terms not the worlds terms.
Where Biblical Love is not only PREACHED, but PRACTICED!

1 Comment

  1. Sylvia Batchelder on June 6, 2019 at 10:05 am

    this was wonderful when it was preached on Sunday and it is equally a good to review and reread and make a part of our lives!