Christian Wholeness 110: some conclusions on Matthew 22:36-40

Today we conclude our series on being whole in Christ.  The video hyperlinked below summarizes a few implicit themes that have run between the lines in the previous articles, so I won’t repeat those here.  Instead, let’s address an explicit misconception that western culture often reads into Matthew 22:36-40 regarding the relationship between Jesus’ two commands:  their separation from each other.

Greco-Roman thought is still strong in the West, specifically an Aristotelian inductive view of reality in pieces: body & spirit, individuals & relationships, Man’s actions & God’s purpose, etc.  The East sees reality more deductively from the whole.  But both views have validity.  In my opinion, that’s one reason God revealed His Word in the Hebrew culture for the Old Testament and in the Greco-Roman for the New Testament.  Even the former’s language was more holistic, while the latter’s was more delineated.  Thus, the two commands in Matthew 22:36-40 are intertwined though stated separately.

Yet, Westerners often speak of relationship with God as a private reality or for specific ‘religious’ events, while all other relationships at home, work, or with friends is our time for us.  We tend to see them as separate realities.  That’s not at all how Jesus’ disciples would’ve heard Matthew 22:36-40.

What Jesus describes as the greatest command is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5, and the immediate context of the chapter and entire book is discipling future generations for a community of love for God as a public lifestyle.  In fact, God’s original command describes a love flowing from one’s heart (verse 6) by their ongoing teaching and actions (v7), based on His Word always before them (v8), and lived in the community and beyond (v9). It can’t be read as a private love without ignoring its clear context.

Similarly, Jesus’ statement of the second greatest command is a quote from Leviticus 19:18. There the context of the verse and entire book is not merely societal laws but reflections of worship. Note how often God explicitly refers to His holiness as Lord over Israel. (vs 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28, 31, 32, 36, 37) Christians’ love for others is to be a supernatural flow from our love for God.

And note another false dichotomy we tend to project onto the same second command: “true love is never confrontational.” For space I usually only reference texts, but this time I want to print the verse and its context fully. “Do not hate your brother in your heart, but (when he sins against you) reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  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 the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:17-18) Yes, a common objection to moral confrontation is Jesus’ own words in Matthew 7:1-4, “Do not judge, lest you be judged. . .” But this, too, is often quoted out of context. In verse 5, He calls us to first turn from any hypocrisy in our lives and then to help them repent, too. In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, the Apostle Paul calls for the same work of tough love among believers.

Before watching this week’s video, discuss the following false divisions of love.

  • David was praised and rebuked regarding love. (1 Samuel 13:14, 2 Samuel 12)
  • In Matthew 23, Jesus confronted the Pharisees on their false dichotomies of love.

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