I’ve been stewing for a while now about a sermon I heard that broke a very important preacher’s rule – the one about the integrity and context of a biblical passage. This preacher offered a particular passage at the opening of his sermon, and basically hung his point on it. The problem is he left off 2 words and changed the meaning of the passage in a troubling way.
36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Many will recognize the above as Jesus’ teaching commonly referred to as The Greatest Commandment. The preacher left out, not only once but several times, the words as yourself giving a different meaning entirely to the instruction. Leaving out the how of loving your neighbor allowed that preacher room to interpret God’s Word in what I believe to be an unintended and dangerous way – specifically that believers are not to love themselves. In fairness, I think his intent was to say that believers should be other-centered, but he never said that. In fact, he said that we should not love ourselves, and the effect was to give permission to self-loathing which is not at all of God. The clear message of Jesus teaching is that we should care for our neighbors in the same way (“as”) we do ourselves, which is to be the same way as we are loved by God.
What a difference 2 little words make in the life of a community.