A legal expert comes to Jesus and asks him a question, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus doesn’t say, “You must believe in me.” Jesus doesn’t say, “You must accept me as your Lord and Savior.” Instead, Jesus responds as he often does, not with an answer, but with another question. “You are the legal expert,” he seems to say, “so you tell me, what’s written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
The legal expert responds, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus tells him he has answered correctly and then he instructs him –
“Do this, and you shall live.”*
Did you notice what Jesus didn’t say this time?
He didn’t say, “Do this and you shall gain eternal life.”
He says, “Do this, and you shall live.”
For much of its history, Christianity has focused on eternal life, on what happens after you die, after you leave this earth. Jesus didn’t make that distinction near as often – he just wanted people to live – in the here and now and in the not yet.
What is the key to living – to truly living this life that God has given you?
It’s loving – whole body, soul, heart, mind loving of God, of your neighbor, and of yourself. Believing in Jesus Christ, accepting him as your Lord and Savior, is less something we do with our words and so much more something we do with our love.
We were created for relationship, God created us out of love to be in loving relationship with God and with one another. When we are free to love – to love God, to love our neighbor and to truly love ourselves, it is then that we find our life, that we discover our purpose. It is then that we encounter the abundant joy that God so desires for us. It is then, and only then, that we truly live.
In worship at Heritage Presbyterian this week, during our time of confession, our time of trying to just be honest with God about the condition of our hearts and lives, we invited everyone to spend some time in silence. We gave them a paper heart that symbolized their heart in its current state and asked them:
What keeps you from loving as Jesus loved?
What gets in the way – what blockage exists – what obstacle do you find when you look within your heart that stops you from loving your God, loving your neighbor, loving yourself right now?
What keeps you from living life with your whole heart?
So now, I ask you, what comes to you as those questions echo in your mind, your heart, and your soul?
There are so many things that can get in the way, that can keep us from loving as Jesus loved, that can keep us from our true purpose in this life.
It could be anger, resentment, judgement, prejudice.
It could be simply busyness – the relentless striving, going, doing that seems to predominate our culture these days.
It could be a deep wound that keeps festering within you.
It could be shame that has been heaped upon you by the messages you take in from outside, which is suffocating your true, God-created, self.
It could be fear –
sometimes I think it all comes back to fear –
fear of not being enough,
fear of not having enough,
fear of rejection,
fear of not being in control
fear of the other,
fear of the unknown,
fear of change,
fear of death,
fear, fear, fear.
There is a reason we hear the words “Do not be afraid,” over and over again in scripture.
What is blocking your heart, right now?
What is keeping you from loving? What is keeping you from truly living?
In worship, after our time of reflection, we invited people forward to turn their hearts over to God and to invite Jesus into them – to invite Christ to tune their hearts to his heart over these weeks that make up the season of Lent.
We invited them to love as Jesus loved –
to love their God,
to love their neighbors near and far,
to love themselves
as Christ loves them.
Do this, and you shall live.
*Scripture referenced is from Luke 10:25-28 (Common English Bible).