Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Legal Questions


Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV)
“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 might. 

Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am theLord.

Luke 10:25-28
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him,“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “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.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Are there any differences between the versions?

When I think of great lawyers, there is a phrase that often gets repeated: "He/she had a great legal mind."  When the lawyer puts Jesus to the test, Jesus asks the man how he reads the law.   The way people always used to become lawyers was to "read the law".  But reading the law means more than just reading it over.  It means digesting the law and knowing it well enough that you will be competent to interpret the law in a court.  

There are three statements in Deuteronomy 6.  There are five statements in the lawyer's answer to Jesus.  In Deuteronomy they are: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might.  Now, if we account for a slight difference in translation, those three are in the lawyer's answer for sure.  But he adds mind.   I think that's because the mind is what a lawyer uses to make his money.  If Jesus had asked this question of Peter, for instance, Peter might have answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, might, and fish.  

What the lawyer knew was that it isn't enough to compartmentalize our faith so that our displays of religious affection are mighty when we go to temple or church.  God must be the Lord over all the rest of our life as well.   My wife might answer the question, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, might, and therapy.   A child could answer, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, might, and play," because play is the work of children.  And I suppose I should turn the mirror on myself here.  Because the work I do is related to faith, the answer gets a bit more tricky.  I think my answer would be, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, might, and ministry.  Pastors can get so caught up in helping people to know the Lord and in preparing sermons that they end up leaving God on the sidelines.  The activities of ministry become ends in themselves, and we never really love God IN our ministry.

Of course, the lawyer adds something else to this core passage in the life of Israel.  He adds a bit from Leviticus to the bit from Deuteronomy.  Why?  Because he also knows that it isn't really loving the Lord with ALL the heart, soul, and might even to also love God in the midst of your career.  You also need to love God in the midst of your community.   One of the most loving things you can do for yourself, believe it or not, it to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might.  I have often heard it said that people who have a consistent time alone with God in the morning are more peaceful, but I never really shoved all the other stuff of life away long enough to establish the habit (thus, why I'm back online writing this blog yet again...).  This time seems different.  I'm allowing myself the grace to experience the peace that knowing him really brings.  Yea, I know that's a cliche.  But I don't have any other words for it.  And if the best way I can love myself is to love God, the best way I can love others is to love them with that same love: to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and might I need to do for another what God did for me.  HE loved me with all his heart, soul, and might.  As John says, "We love because he first loved us."  

So the lawyer has added well to the core of Israel's teaching.  "Added" really isn't the right word.  The lawyer has interpreted the law well, and Jesus commends him for it.   The telling of the story of the Good Samaritan is how Jesus takes the lawyer from a place where he was testing Jesus to a place where Jesus was testing him.   Since the lawyer added "love your neighbor as yourself," his question, "and who is my neighbor" is that cutting edge moment  where lawyers become Judges.  He has moved from simply interpreting the law in all its cold reality to the heart of the law.  And he really wants to know.  

What is it that you need to add to the reading of the law?  How will you complete the statement, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and..."  And where will it lead you?  Once you figure out how you complete the first statement, it will tell you exactly how to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jon

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