In small towns like the one you live in , people tend to know other people more so than in big cities. When I worked in New York City, anonymity was a virtue and provided a sense of safety.
Frank Fredericks offers this story to say it doesn’t always have to be that way.
“One day, Brendan, a young but rising DJ in New York, was coming home to his Brooklyn apartment when a homeless woman asked him for money. He said, honestly, that he had no money. By the end of the week, she asked two more times, and each (time) he answered ‘no.’ Finally she frankly replied, ‘you better not, because every day you say no.’ Inserting some rational thinking into an otherwise awkward conversation, he proposed, ‘I am on my way to a job interview. If I get the job, I will take you out for Chinese food.’ This promise yielded a friendship that neither were prepared for – that changed the trajectory of their lives, both forwards toward each other.
“Brendan got the job. But their friendship didn’t just end with Chinese food. They built a friendship of mutual support, spending their birthdays, holidays and tough times together, over a period of eight years. When Brendan’s heater broke, she made him a blanket. Two days later when he told her that he had lost his job, she disappeared, returning minutes later, bringing him groceries, and which (she) continued to do throughout the winter. Even with so little, she never hesitated to give back.
“Over these years, Jackie moved from the streets and subway stations, into a halfway house, YMCA, and is now moving into an apartment. To celebrate this occasion, Brendan wanted to do something special for Jackie. He went with her to Target, and helped her to pick out everything she’d need for an apartment, starting a registry. Then, he set up a campaign to raise the money to pay for the registry (now closed), along with an awesome video telling their story. While their original goal was to raise $500, the campaign went viral and they’ve raised more than $6,000, and are now looking to use the extra funding to support other women in need.”
Brendan is not a Christian. Treating another person out of love and respect doesn’t require a Jesus membership card. But as Christians, we are called to a high standard.
In Matthew 22, Jesus is in Jerusalem. In this scene , Jesus will soon be crucified. The religious authorities are trying to gather evidence that they can use against Jesus at his trial, which likely is already planned.
Matthew tells us that a lawyer asks Jesus a question, fittingly, about the law. The law, in this case, is the Mosaic Law. Lawyers in the Gospels are experts in the Mosaic Law and are likely Pharisees. The Mosaic Law contains 613 laws. The core of the 613 laws is the Ten Commandments. Some of the Torah explains how the law is to be applied. As with any law, questions of obeying a law in different circumstances always come up. Interpretation of the Mosaic Law is a centuries long pursuit.
The lawyer asks which of the 613 laws are the greatest. He may have thought Jesus might reply with one of the Ten Commandments, but he didn’t.
Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:5, the second line of the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Observant Jews are to say the Shema three times a day. It is the central prayer of Judaism. It is called the Shema because the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4 is Shema in Hebrew, or in English “hear.” “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.a You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
Jesus says that the second line of the Shema is the greatest commandment. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Jesus says there is another of the 613 that is just as great as the one Jesus says is the greatest.
Here Jesus quotes Leviticus 19:18. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is just as great as loving God. The entire Torah, the entire Mosaic Law, and all that the prophets preached can be summarized in these two laws. Jesus has condensed the 613 laws into two. I don’t know about you, but it is a lot easier for me to remember two laws instead of 613.
In essence, the 613 laws are commentary on the Ten Commandments, giving application for how we are to live the Ten Commandments. But if we carefully look at the Ten Commandments, we find that they can easily be divided into two groups. The first four deal with loving God with everything we got. The next six deal with loving our neighbors. So the Ten Commandments were also condensed by Jesus.
Some say Jesus gave his version of the law in what is called the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
Two very simple laws: love God and love our neighbors. Oh so simple and yet so hard. We might say it easy to love God, but I know of people that I don’t really like very much. Here’s the thing: we are all created in God’s image. We were all united with Jesus in the incarnation. If we can’t love what God created, then how can we say we love God?
Loving other people is a sign of our love for God and God’s love for us. It is an imperfect sign, but a sign nonetheless. By a sign, I mean that the love we express is a small, imperfect gesture compared to the great, perfect love that God has for us. We can’t even begin to comprehend what God’s love is like. But God wants us to share love with others and by so doing we then express our love of God.
When someone says that they hate someone or some group, when someone holds up a sign that says they hate someone or some group, or even that God hates someone or some group, then that person is slapping God in the face. (If God has a face – I have no idea.)
When we love a neighbor, another person, we are demonstrating our love of God.
Jesus then turns the tables on the Pharisees and he examines them about the messiah. Actually, the Pharisees answer correctly by saying that the messiah is a son of David, in other words a descendant of David. The expectation was the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom.
Jesus quotes Psalm 110, which was a messianic psalm. In essence, Jesus is saying that since David refers to a messiah as lord, then the messiah is a) not necessarily of the line of David, and b) much greater than David. Though Matthew takes pains to place Jesus in the line of David, Jesus is implying that the son of God is greater than the son of David.
At that point the religious authorities gave up trying any theological challenge to Jesus. They would need to resort to other means to bring Jesus to trial and execution.
We wouldn’t need a legal code if everyone followed these two commandments quoted by Jesus. But even those of us who think we are moral people, will do things that are less than loving.
We live in a world of laws and rules. Even our church laws, called canons, are long enough that they are printed in a book. We create household rules for our families to follow. We cannot get in our cars without being cognizant of the motor vehicle code.
Sometimes our laws and our rules get in the way of what is right. That is how the Pharisees got tripped up by Jesus. They were so caught up in rules that they forgot that love trumps any rule.
There is a little bit of a Pharisee in all of us. Maybe even some might be more of a Pharisee than we would like. By that I mean, when we put laws and rules ahead of loving our neighbor, then we pervert what God wants for us. Loving one another sets us free from the burden of the law.
Text: Matthew 22:34–46
 Frank Fredericks, Founder of World Faith and Mean Communications. Love Your Neighbor: An Inspiring Story Of Two Friends. Posted: 11/14/2012 1:27 pm EST, Huffington Post.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Dt 6:4–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 5:43–45). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.