Awwwww, for the love of Jesus

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Did the title grab your attention? It’s one of those sayings that one hears (or says) every once in a while, from one who is pretending not to swear, or is trying to swear politely. Typically, they are trying to avoid some of the harsher four plus letter words we might normally hear when one is inclined to use a curse word or two. There are others like “Oh my God”, or “gosh darn” (fake job there!), or one that seems to be particularly attached to those of a Catholic upbringing—“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”

I’ll focus on the title for these purposes, and in particular, I want to zero in on the love of Jesus. He spent His three short years of itinerant ministry modeling love; the kind of love God would have us live. In fact, in one of the best known statements of the Bible, we read:

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:34-40 New International Version

Unpack the above verses. What do those verses speak to you?

I love what Matthew Henry spoke to this passage in his commentary of old;

22:34-40 An interpreter of the law asked our Lord a question, to try, not so much his knowledge, as his judgment. The love of God is the first and great commandment, and the sum of all the commands of the first table. Our love of God must be sincere, not in word and tongue only. All our love is too little to bestow upon him, therefore all the powers of the soul must be engaged for him, and carried out toward him. To love our neighbour as ourselves, is the second great commandment. There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified; but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbour as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves; in many cases we must deny ourselves for the good of others. By these two commandments let our hearts be formed as by a mould.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

All that follows are a series of questions to provoke thought from the reader. This post, and the material you see was used for a Men’s mid-week small group recently, and the discussion that arose out of it was both robust and encouraging. Feel free to use it for your small group or community group.

What do you think of when you think of selfless acts of love? What are they, or what might they be like?

Because we flawed humans often have just a bit of trouble with the humility thing (did I say just a bit?), I followed that with the following citations before getting into the real meat of the evening’s discussion;

3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:3-6 New International Version

Elliott, in his Commentary for English readers, had this to say about the secrecy spoken of in Matthew. Both the citation and the comment are important for this discussion for the reason raised in the questions that yet follow;

(3) Let not thy left hand know.—The phrase was probably proverbial, and indicates, in the form of free hyperbole, extremest secrecy. It is possible that there may be some reference to the practice of using the right hand in offering gifts at the altar. The symbolical application, though an afterthought, is yet suggestive. The “right hand” is the higher spiritual element in us that leads to acts of true charity, the “left” is the baser, self-seeking nature. We ought, as it were, to set a barrier between the two, as far as possible, i.e., to exclude that mingling of motives, which is at least the beginning of evil.

Share one example where you have recently seen either someone you know or don’t know extend an act of selfless love toward another person. It doesn’t have to be “the big bang”—it can be a small and insignificant or obscure act, yet you sense that it had impact on the recipient. Share your reaction when you saw it and what it spoke to you.

Have you ever come away from a situation where you had sensed an opportunity to give a selfless act of love to another, but you blew it by not doing so? Share your reaction as you realized that and how that spoke to you?

Share a time when you were the giver of a selfless act of love toward another?

We’ve spoken of obvious acts of selfless love—the things that can be seen by others, even if, and hopefully if, they were not done to be seen, but done spontaneously as a legitimate reaction out of love for others due to the particular timing and circumstances of the moment.

Does that kind of love carry over to your thoughts of others (as in your thought life)? In other words, might you catch yourself (in your mind) thin-slicing another, comparing, maybe judging, perhaps forming an opinion (right or wrong) about that other person before you weigh how you will interact with that person? How does that align with the verses from Matthew?

Oops, that discussion sort of knocks the title expression out of the box as an appropriate exclamation when we typically hear it’s use doesn’t it? Even “Awww, for the love of Jesus, live the love of Jesus” could sound terribly askew, right?

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