“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
People often look at religious people and view them as judgmental, hypocritical and mean-spirited. Young adults who don’t participate in church life, when surveyed about Christians, list the above characteristics as top ideas that come to mind. It is a sad but true reality that religious people are often viewed as “people I wouldn’t want to get to know.”
So when we look at the heart of Jesus’ life and teaching, it is helpful to remember that love stands at the center. Jesus teaches that the above statement summarizes the core of the Old Testament. Everything in the Law and the Prophets points to one thing: love.
Jesus goes on to show what love looks like in the telling of a familiar story: The Good Samaritan. The story uses a despised foreigner as the hero and respectable insiders as the foil to tell a story showing that true love is bold, courageous, unconcerned about human divisions, and ultimately generous. The hearers of this story would have been both impressed by the message and offended by the plot. But Jesus tells it to remind us that real work that pleases God is not concerned with human categories – it is grounded in people helping people when they need it.
In a world of division, Jesus calls us as his followers to share love indiscriminately. Where other see “us” and “them” and want to love “us” and shun “them,” Jesus only see all of us as created by God, loved by God and worthy of loving. As Christ lives in us, may that be true for all of us who claim the title of disciples as well.