What is called forth from us?
What is called forth from me (or you) to be part of the Christian community?
To a significant extent, that is the question that was asked of Jesus one day shortly before His death when a teacher of the law asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
In modern day America, we think that we find our identity in what makes us different from anyone else. But in the Middle East in Biblical times, people recognized that their identity was tied into whom they belonged to. Therefore, a critical question became: What is called forth from me to be part of this community?
According to Jewish authorities, the Torah (the Jewish Scriptures) contain 613 commandments (248 positive commands, “do this,” and 365 negative commands, “don’t do that”). In asking Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” this teacher of the law was asking: Out of all 613 commandments, what is the one law that is key to all the laws? Out of all 613 commandments, what is the primary thing I must do to be recognized as part of this community? Is it circumcision? Is it wearing my prayer shawl? Is it observation of the holy days? Is it presenting the required sacrifices? Is it keeping the dietary restrictions? Is it obeying the Sabbath rules?
I love Jesus’ reply. When Jesus gives us the command that is the key to all the commands, He boils it down to relationship: relationship with God and relationship with one another. When He distills for us what we must do to be part of this community of faith, He boils it down to love: love toward God and love toward one another.
What does Jesus call forth from me if I want to consider myself as one who belongs to the Christian community of faith? What does Jesus call forth from me if others are to recognize me as belonging to this community of faith?
It boils down to this: Do I love God with my whole being? Or is my faith merely a matter of religious activities? Do I love God with my whole being? Or do I cherish other things in my life more highly than Him? Being part of the Christian community is being part of the deepest possible loving relationship. God loves us so fully that Jesus gave His very life for us. The key to belonging to this community with God is receiving the fullness of His self-giving love and returning such love to Him by cherishing our relationship with Him as the most important relationship of our lives.
And it boils down to this: Do I love my neighbor as I love myself? Or do I think only of my own needs and care only about my own interests? Do I love my neighbor as I love myself? Or do I ignore my neighbor or look down on my neighbor or gossip about my neighbor or harbor grudges or judgments against my neighbor? The community God invites us into is the community of God’s deep and forgiving and unconditional love for all people. If I want to be part of God’s loving community, I must love others as God does. The key to belonging to this community with God is receiving the fullness of His self-giving love and sharing that love with others.