Sermon Summary • September 3, 2017
Mark 12:18–37 (18-34) (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Loving the neighbor as well as loving God is the anchor to Jesus’ message. As Christians learn to fully embrace the implications of this message, it changes everything.
1. Why loving God alone will distort our relationship with God.
The people of Israel failed to become a “light to the Gentiles” and a “blessing” to the world because they focused on loving God alone. And this distorted their relationship with God and perverted their purpose. Instead of reflecting God’s image and purpose to the world, they made God reflect their image and purpose. God became Israel’s property. God was thus made to hate who the Israel hated and love who Israel loved. As a result, Israel because an ethnic nationalist enclave committed to excluding Gentiles and purifying its own people.
Today, any attempt to focus on loving God without a equal focus on loving the neighbor will result in a Pharisaic religion. Think about some of the super-spiritual people who insist that all Christians must have spiritual gifts (e.g., speaking tongues, seeing visions, etc) in order to saved. Think about the fundamentalists who condemn Christians who don’t accept their literalist approach to Scripture. They all claim to love God, but are unable to love the neighbor (and even fellow Christians) unless certain conditions are met first. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time and the Judaizers that Paul confronted forgot God’s mission to the world.
2. Why embracing the Jesus Creed changes everything.
Jesus coupled loving God with loving the neighbor to show his fellow Jews that they had to repent and return to their original purpose, namely join the Kingdom of God movement. Bible scholar Scot McKnight calls this the “Jesus Creed,” which was an effort reform Judaism and to extend God’s love to the whole world. And since then, the love of neighbor has been cited by Paul and James as the fulfillment of the Law of Moses (Rom. 13:10; 15:1-2; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8).
What this means for us today is scary and ought to drive us to dependency upon Jesus’ work on the cross and the Holy Spirit. For no one is able to love others on their own strength. When new people enter our lives, we will be challenged to change. It’s actually easier to reach out to those in need (such as the tragedy in Texas) than to truly embrace people outside our inner circle. Our church culture, our faith community, our families all naturally create bubbles to protect against what we don’t want to change.
New people – our neighbors – force us to see where we’ve distorted the gospel instead of being faithful to Jesus’ mission. Let us repent of our stubbornness and allow ourselves to sent by God into mission to the world outside our bubble!