A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on January 20, 2019, called “The Shema, Extended Edition.” It is the second in a series called “Reading the Bible with Jesus.” The sermon is a reflection on the command in Leviticus 19:18 to “love your neighbour as yourself,” which Jesus appended to the command to “love the Lord your God,” calling these together the greatest commandments of the Law of Moses (Mark 12:28-34).
Here is a written excerpt from the conclusion:
Jesus says that this Extended Shema is the hook on which all the Law and the Prophets hang. This love for God by loving others sums up all the Law and the Prophets. In other words, it’s the whole point of the Bible.
Here’s what this means: if we come up with an interpretation of a passage in the Bible that leads us to not love another person in the way the foreigner Good Samaritan loved that enemy Jew in need—open-handed, with open arms—then we are not reading the Bible rightly.
History teaches us that we can justify a lot of terrible things by quoting the Bible. We can justify a lot of damaging, destructive things out of “love for God,” undivided devotion to God. Racism, colonialism, genocide, slavery, crusades, inquisitions and more—all of these have been committed by people committed to God, all have been defended by quoting the Bible.
But Jesus gives us a new hermeneutic. Jesus gives us a different way of reading the Bible: if we come up with an interpretation of a passage in the Bible that leads us to not love another person in the way Jesus loves us—open-handed, with open arms—we are not reading the Bible rightly.
Or, put in the positive, when we read the Bible with Jesus, we learn to love God by loving others: neighbours, strangers, those who are different, even our enemies.
This is a life-long pursuit, reading the Bible with Jesus like this, so that we learn to love God by loving others. But we can do it, one day at a time—because the Spirit of Jesus is in us and among us. We can do it, one step at a time—by always simply loving the person in front of us.