Series – Reckless Love
Sermon – Begin with Love
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
Monday September 9 — Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Leviticus 19:17-18
These familiar verses serve as the context for tomorrow’s reading in Mark 12. What we discover is that loving God and loving our neighbor has always been God’s expectation for God’s people. In the Gospels, Jesus affirms what the Hebrew people were already supposed to know. The problem is that knowing the great commandment is far easier than obeying the great commandment. Which is easier for you: loving God or loving your neighbor? Where do you need to grow?
• Prayer: God of Love, forgive me for failing to obey the first and greatest of your commandments. Teach me to love you, and my neighbors, more fully. Amen.
Tuesday September 10 — Mark 12:28-34
We usually refer to this passage as the Great Commandment. Speaking about loving God and loving your neighbor, Jesus says, “There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). However, loving God and neighbor is not just the great commandment, loving God is the first commandment (see Mark 12:28-29). Being the first commandment means that it is the highest priority. It’s where we begin. It’s where we start our relationship with God. If we do nothing else, we do this: we begin with love. What, if anything, is preventing you from beginning with love?•
- Prayer: Loving God, I know that loving you and loving my neighbor is my highest priority. Help me to remove everything in my life that prevents me from beginning with love. Amen.
Wednesday September 11 — James 2:8-13
The early church took Jesus’ words and example very seriously. Following on Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, James also quotes Leviticus 19:18 and calls it the “royal law” (James 2:8). He reminds his readers to begin with love amid his warnings against showing partiality and discriminating against people who are poor. He goes on to insist that we will be judged, first and foremost by our obedience to the law of love and mercy. If God really does expect us to begin with us, how well are you doing?
• Prayer: God of Mercy, thank you for showing me mercy that I do not deserve and love that I cannot earn. Help me to fulfill your law and show mercy to all. Amen.
Thursday September 12 — Galatians 5:13-15
The apostle Paul also echoes the teaching of Jesus and quotes Leviticus 19:18. (You’ll find another example in Romans 13:9). One of the themes of the letter to the Galatians is that God has given us the freedom to make decisions about how we live our lives, and that our decision-making should begin with love. What might change in your life if the process of making every decision (large and small) began with love? What might change in your most important relationships?
• Prayer: Eternal God, I am aware that I do not always make decisions by beginning with love. Love is not always my highest priority. Please forgive me. Amen.
Friday September 13 — Galatians 5:16-21
After reminding the Galatians to begin with love, Paul goes on to warn them about the dangers of choosing to gratify what he calls the desires of the flesh. (Note that when Paul uses the word “flesh” he’s not talking about the human body, but rather that part of us that opposes and resists God’s Spirit). The works of the flesh he lists are what come out of us when we do not begin with love. Using Paul’s list in Galatians 5:19-21, review your life. Where do you need to grow?
• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for helping me see myself more clearly. Remove anything and everything from my life that opposes and resists your Spirit. Amen.
Saturday September 14 — Galatians 5:22-26
In contrast to the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit. Rather than a to-do list for a self-help project, this list outlines the expected result of a healthy relationship with God that is nurtured in worship, prayer, service, study, and other spiritual disciplines. The fruit of the Spirit are God’s intention for our life and an indicator that our relationship with God is on the right track. Notice that the fruit of the Spirit begins with love. Using Galatians 5:22-23, review your life. Where do you see signs of God’s Spirit in your life?
• Prayer: God of Spirit and Truth, I desire to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life. Help me grow in faith and trust in the life-changing power of your love and grace. Amen.