Matt 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The subject this morning will be:
Let us pray
Dear Heavenly Father. We come to you this morning once again seeking answers. Seeking the solutions to problems which to us right now, on this earth, appear to have no solution. But we ask you this morning to give us that solution. We ask you to inspire us and work with us and give us the solution of which we search. We realize that you cannot do everything for us, that we must be willing to take the first step, but we know that through you and with you, once we take the first step, you will guide us along the rest of the way. Help us to see that with you, love can conquer all. Help us to see that with you, nothing is impossible. Help us to begin traveling on the journey that will enable us to see the answers as you would give them to us. We thank you this morning for allowing us to be here in your house, in our right minds, in bodies that you have created, with emotions that you have given us. We thank you this morning for the emotion of love. We ask that you bless those who are short of love this morning. We ask that you bless those who do not understand what love truly is. We ask that you bless each and every person who has a lack of love in their life. Let the words that come out of my mouth this morning be your words, your feelings and your thoughts. Remove me and let your essence come through. All this we ask in your son's Jesus name, Amen.
A well known adage states that the Lord moves in mysterious ways. And I have always believed that this was and is the absolute truth. And I also believe that there are times when God puts you certain situations in order for you to learn something or to somehow grow from what you have experienced. Or maybe, He just wants to give you something to think about. One of these somethings happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and this scripture came to mind. But before I tell you what happened, let's look at the scripture.
In this set of scriptures, we find that Jesus has already silenced the Sadducees, or to use laymen's terms, made them look like idiots. Now the Pharisees, who believed themselves to smarter than the Jews or anyone else, decided to put Jesus to the test. They got one of their brightest members to challenge Jesus on the law of the land.
This is where we have the Pharisee student asking Jesus the question about what is the greatest commandment according to what we now call Jewish law. The reply that Jesus gave is something that has been incorporated into the Decalogue of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, along with other Methodist faiths. One is an old commandment and one is a new one. He tells the student that you must love God with everything you have, mind body and soul. But in addition to that, you must love your neighbor as you would yourself. Then, Jesus ends his brief lesson by telling the student, and the rest of those in attendance that all of the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
So what do these two commandments actually mean. The first one "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," seems to be pretty self explanatory. We are commanded to love God with everything that we have, and everything that we can give. It does not mean that we come to church on Sunday and say we love the Lord, and then the rest of the week we act as if we do not even know who God is. It does not mean that we wait until we are in trouble, or sick or have a life altering problem to profess a love in God.
No, to love the Lord with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind means that there is no part of you, no minute part of you than cannot love the Lord. This means that you must love with your head, with your heart, even with your little toe if that is what is necessary to get the job done. It also means that every waking or sleeping minute should be filled with the love of God. And despite our sins and our sinning nature, I dare say that most of us do love the Lord with these requirements in mind. We just don't always act like it. But the problem is that we don't always love each other.
However, it is the second commandment that Jesus gave us here that gives us the most problems and it this commandment that people most often conveintley ignore. "Love your neighbor as yourself." This is one commandment, that when you actually look at it, is nothing but the Golden Rule restated: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But then again, as with the Golden Rule, we are very liberal in how we pay attention to this commandment.
Loving your neighbor as yourself would seem an easy thing to do. If you wanted to be treated good, then you treat others good. If you want to be treated with respect, the you treat others with respect. If you want to be loved, then you must love someone else. But the essence of this commandment is different that the Golden Rule.
There is a reason why this commandment is hard to follow for a lot of people. Whereas the Golden Rule speaks of general respect for yourself and others, this commandment speaks of love. It speaks of loving other people in the same way that you love yourself. This is very difficult because many people cannot truly love someone else because they do not love themselves. Oh sure, they can say the words, and even put some fake emotion behind it, but unless you love yourself, and you love God, you cannot love someone else.
Which brings me to what happened to me a couple of Friday's ago. While out with one of my best friends, I was preparing to go home, because something else for him came up and I didn't want to be a third wheel. We were in Hyde Park on 53rd street and my car was parked on the corner of 53rd and Harper.
As I walked to my car, I heard some people yelling and screaming. Being that I was right by two bars, I at first thought nothing of it. I just figured it was your usual drunk people out acting crazy. But then I realized that something was amiss, when I saw a woman running from a man and another man trying to prevent the other man from catching this woman. It was then I realized that something different was going on.
I opened my car door and was preparing to get in when I saw the woman running towards me. My first instinct, to be quite honest was to keep them away from the car, lest anything happen to it. I didn't realize it at the time, but as I was moving away from the car, I realized that I was moving towards them, and the woman ran up to me and grabbed on to me for dear life. This woman was shaking uncontrollably and crying and asking me to help.
Now what was I to do? I could push this woman off of me and get in my car and speed off, but them I would have torn the brand new shirt I had just bought, because this woman was holding on to me very tight. Or I could have just hit the woman, hit the man, run off to my car and driven off. Or I could do my best to attempt to resolve this situation without anyone getting hurt, namely me. The man, who turned out to be her husband, came up and began to threaten me, telling me that if I did not let go of his wife, he was going to kill me.
Was I scared? Yes. But there was nothing that I could do at the moment since I was already involved, albeit, unwillingly. The other guy who was trying to prevent all of this from happening was yelling for someone to call the police. I told the guy to go into the place I had just left and get my friend, since he is a cop.
The woman was still crying, I was scared and this man was still threatening me, even though I was trying to calm the situation down. I have never been in a situation like this before, so I was trying my best to calm everybody down until my friend got there.
The man kept cursing at me, telling me to let go of his wife, and I tried my best to explain to him that it was she that was holding onto me. As I kept talking to him, she kept crying, saying how scared she was, and that she didn't want to be beat up again. He started trying to tearing her shirt off of her, which was making her dig into my back with her nails.
I was able to prevent the husband from tearing his wife's shirt completely off, but the fact was remaining that this guy was still threatening to kill me, and I had no idea how to get out of this situation. He kept going into his pocket as if he was going to get a knife or a gun or something, and even though my brain logically told me that he had nothing on him, there was that fear there that was telling me to be careful anyway.
Because truthfully, and this is not bragging, I could have taken the guy. I have been in enough fights in high school and college to know that most likely, I could have beaten him up. However, I realized that this woman would have gotten hurt in the process and if this guy did have something, I might have been hurt or worse in the process. So I decided to still wait for my friend, and wondering what was taking him so long.
The three of us did this song and dance for what seemed like an hour, but which was probably more like 3 minutes. Kevin, my friend, came running across the street with his gun drawn, thinking that I was in real trouble. He was able to get the woman off of me, and then he subdued the husband. The woman was walked to her car and Kevin ordered the guy to go home. My first instinct after all of this was to go after the guy, and Kevin knew that, so he moved in between me and the guy. The guy apologized to me, and being in a very agitated state, and feeling somewhat safe now that Kevin was there, I boldly and angrily refused his apology. I realize now that to do that was wrong, but I was reacting still reacting out of fear.
Finally it was all over and once Kevin knew that I was alright, he went back to where he was when I had left him. The police had indeed been called, but when they got there, there was nothing to be done. As I got into my car, someone who apparently lived a nearby apartment said to me, "You know, it's bad enough when blacks are killing blacks, but when a black man has to beat up on his wife in the middle of the street, that only makes it worse." I agreed with him and got in my car and drove home.
I realized as I was getting in my car, that the saddest part of all of this, is that I am willing to bet any amount of money, that I if followed them home, they would kiss and make up, and the next time she made him mad, he'd do the same thing to her again. I know that is a pessimistic attitude, but it is what I believe.
As I was driving home, I did what I normally do to calm myself down. Put in some music by my favorite artist, Prince. As I was listening to the tape, the lyrics to one of his songs came to me, which is the title I used for this sermon. The song is called Live 4 Love. And there is one set of lyrics in the song which says, "Live 4 love without love you don't live." And the song ends with the words, "So stop trying to fight and push and shove. Come on ya'll, can't we live 4 love."
And I realized not only was that the problem with the couple, but that is our problem in general. We don't live 4 love. We don't live 2 love. We go about our merry way, doing our same business, day after day after day, wondering why we can't get ahead, or if we have gotten ahead, we wonder why we haven't gotten further.
In the book Race Matters, by Harvard professor Cornell West, made the following quote, which to me sums up a large part of this situation. He says, "The fundamental crisis in black America is twofold: too much poverty and too little self love."
But then we come back to these scriptures. Love your neighbor as yourself. As I said earlier, it is hard to love someone when you don't love yourself. I realized that if this man truly loved his wife, then he would love himself, then he would love God, then he would have not cause to attempt to beat up his wife in the middle of 53rd street.
And when it boils down to it, the reason why we don't follow this commandment is because we can't. Love is the simplest yet the most powerful emotion of them all, which in turn makes it the most dangerous and most confusing. Most of us don't know how to love. Most of us don't know what love is.
But if any of us, just one of us, took the time to experience love in it true and pure state, we would not have these problems. Then, if we took that experience and passed it off to just one person, a domino effect would take place. More of us would have the experience of true love, and keep passing it on to the next person, until we would have a whole nation consumed by love. But, that does not happen.
However, if the majority of us really, honestly, confessed a sincere and honest, no holds barred, unconditional love of God and belief in Jesus, then we would not have all of the problems. We would not have to worry about passing it on to the next person, because we would already be aware of what love is, and therefore, loving your neighbor would become second nature to all of us.
Take Mel Reynolds for instance. Mel Reynolds was not accused of sexual misconduct and violations of the financial disclosures act solely because he is a black man. He was indicted because he may have done something wrong, dreadfully wrong, and due to a lack of love for himself and for God, which in turn, caused him to be investigated. Had he had true love for himself, and true love for the people that he was serving, I dare say he would not be caught in the situation that he finds himself in today.
Former NAACP Executive Director Ben Chavis did not get into his scrape with his followers because, as he said, he is living in a racist, female dominated society. He did not get in his predicament solely because he chose to burn bridges with the Jews and forge a new relationship with the Nation of Islam and other black nationalist organizations. Ben Chavis got into this scrape because he was vulenarble. Chavis, representative of too many ministers in this country, didn't practice what he preaches. He tried to hush his situation up, and because of a lack of love for himself, for the woman involved and for God. Then he, like Reynolds, instead of confronting the issue, tries to put it on some mass conspiracy against black people in America. But, in the cases of both men, they have been caught in a web of lies and decict that will be difficult for either one of them to wipe away by playing the racism game.
In the past couple of weeks, we have been inundated with stories of children killing children, gangs taking over territory, people committing mass murders, and even someone spraying graffiti on our church. Yet if you have a psychologist or psycharist examine these people, they will say that the reasons these things happen, or the reasons that these people do what they do, is because these people never learned how to love. But actually it is more complex than that. In order to learn how to love, you must be taught how to love. It's not that they haven't learned, it's that they haven't been taught.
Which is why I really don't get all of the really extreme race baiters, both black and white. I don't see how anyone can preach hate, or say that one group of people are inferior to another, and yet, call themselves a Christian. I do not understand how the black nationalist movement can say "Black Power" in one breath, and "Kill Whitey" in the next. I also do not understand how white supremacists can say "White Power", then turn around and go lynch or kill some so-called niggers and still call themselves Christians. Neither of these view points embody the love of Jesus. Neither of these points of view are acceptable in the sight of God. Because if you love your neighbor, then you love him no matter what race they are, no matter how rich or poor, no matter how intelligent or unintelligent they are. If you claim that you love yourself, then you are commanded, by the scriptures to love that person just as much as you love yourself.
So when we ask ourselves the question, why can't we live 4 love, and when Jesus gives us the commandment to love not only love God with everything we have, but to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and we can't follow these commandments, it is all because in order to love anyone else, in order to love yourself, you must love God. You must ask God to be apart of your life, you must ask God to be the head of your life. You must accept Jesus as your savior. You must confess your sins to him and tell him that you do earnestly and honestly believed that he dies so that other might live.
We have to learn how to love. Love, although it can be freely given, is hard to give in return. Love must be taught. Love is not judgmental, love is not evil, love knows not pity, love knows not jealously. Love is not boisterous, love is not bragging about what you have done or what you have accomplished. If you truly love yourself, then people will see your true self. People will see that you are acting out of love and not conceit.
Love is pure, it is sweet, it is the one gift that we have been given with no strings attached. The problem comes is that too many people want to put conditions on love. We would have people say that if you loved me, you'd do this, or if you loved me, you wouldn't do that. Love is free and to put a price upon it is a blasphemy against God.
Jesus did not die so we can kill each other in the streets. Jesus did not die so that men can beat up on their wives. Jesus did not die for 11 and 14 year old children to be killed in the streets. Jesus did not die so that people can be judgmental towards each other. Jesus gave his life out of love for us. And in return, all he asks is that we believe in him and keep his commandments.
Living for love is nothing but asking God to implant love on your heart. Living for love is understanding that if you say you follow the Christian religion, then you will not act out of spite, that will you will act out of anger, that you will respect others, that you will understand that none of us are perfect. Living for love means that your actions are motivated by a pure nature. Living for love means that you will treat all of God's children in the same manner that you want to be treated. Living for love is leading a life that will not make anyone think that Jesus' death upon the cross was in vain.
So as I leave you this morning, I ask you to remember that Jesus gave us these commandments for a reason. In hopes that by following these commandments, "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." we would be able to be children worthy of his ultimate sacrifice. So I have one question, Why can't we live for love?
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