Matthew 22.34-46 (NRSV) When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘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 first 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.” Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit[d] calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
The Lens of Love
In Matthew 21, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly . . . goes straight to the temple and overturns the tables of those who would sell access to God . . . heals and cures those in great need . . . and is confronted in anger by the religious leaders of the day.
Thus does the conflict come out into the open . . .
The religious leaders challenge Jesus’ authority and he challenges their integrity.
At the core, the disagreement, the fight, about the very identity, integrity, and nature of God’s own self, which God’s people are to reflect with their own lives.
Cynicism has clouded the leaders’ eyes; self-interest their judgment – for this Messiah comes with a different message.
What is the greatest command of all? he is asked.
The command of love. It is the command by which all others are to be understood: Love God; love each other. Love with everything you’ve got.
The exchange is epic. Some get it. Some don’t.
The difference, I suspect, is the lens of love.
If we look at Jesus, if we look at each other, through the lens of the law unfiltered by the lens of love, we reduce God’s ways to a checklist. Do this, don’t do that, and you’re in. Fail and you’re out.
The problem is that a checklist, while easy, misses the hard work, the gritty get-down-in-the-mud doing, the walking-with messiness of loving.
Jesus does not cure the sick because they are good. He cures them because they need a cure.
Jesus does not condemn the leaders because they’re bad. He condemns them because their righteousness has made them blind and unkind.
Jesus does not close the doors of heaven tight against the unworthy; he flings them open for all.
The lens of love is the only way to understand the law for what it is – a means of navigating life in ways that help rather than harm humanity.
Take a law and make of it a rule and impose it to the point of harm to another human being and we miss the lens of love and make of the law an idol – substituting the law for the one who gifted it to us.
Thus does Jesus mourn for those who would so worry about who gets to be with whom in heaven that they would miss the enormity of the resurrection promise: the dead now live!
Thus does Jesus shake his head when leaders worry that paying taxes to Rome (which takes them by force) means you’ll go to hell.
Thus does Jesus, when asked about his authority, ask whether we can see God’s authority when it stands before us, always with the lens of love, deep compassionate love, love that cares and does not count the cost, love that witnesses the true nature of God, love that admits freely it does not know everything, needs much, has much to learn, and errs, always, on the side of the ones humanity so easily dismisses, erases, ignores.
Thus does Jesus turn away from the wise leaders to look directly into our eyes – the eyes of his followers – and say – gently, ever so gently, now you see? Now you understand?
Now you go – go and do likewise. Heal the sick. Welcome the outsider. Walk with the outcasts. Dine with the lonely. Do what the impulse to Love would have you do.
And remember – if it is not of Love, it is not of me.