Why Loving Each Other Isn’t Easy

A greater and more intense love than this (i.e., than the love which results from realizing that G-d is one’s true soul and life), a love which is likewise concealed in every soul of Israel as an inheritance from our ancestors, is that which is defined in Ra‘aya Mehemna, (in description of Moses’ divine service:) “Like a son who strives for the sake of his father and mother, whom he loves even more than his own body, soul and spirit, (… sacrificing his life for his father and mother in order to redeem them from captivity.”

This manner of service is not limited to Moses alone: it is within the province of every Jew,)

for “have we not all one Father?”

(Just as Moses possessed this love because G-d is his Father, so, too, every Jew can possess this love, for G-d is equally our Father.)

And although (one may ask), who is the man and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to approach and attain even a thousandth part of the degree of love felt by Moses, “The Faithful Shepherd.”

Today’s Tanya Lesson (Listen online)
Likutei Amarim, middle of Chapter 44
By Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812)
founder of Chabad Chassidism
Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg
Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg
Edited by Uri Kaploun

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

-John 10:11-18 (ESV)

A few days ago, I wrote on the profound mystery of Christ’s love for the church. Not much later, I also described who we are in Christ as a tangible expression of that love. We are to love all humanity as God loves them (us), and have compassion for them in their troubles, but we are specifically to love each other as brothers and sisters in the Messiah:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35 (ESV)

Oddly enough, for some Christians, it’s easier to love strangers than others to also claim the name of Jesus Christ.

In part 3 of my “Who Are We in Christ” series, I set aside all of the theological and behavioral differences between different denominations, groups, and sects among the disciples of the Master, and focused with great intensity on what makes us all alike. It’s in our united vision of our love and obedience to the Master that we are truly his disciples, regardless of our surface differences.

When Jesus gave us the new commandment to love one another as he loves us, he may well have been considering the love the Good Shepherd has for his sheep. Only moments after he gave his new commandment, he also said “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). We, among the body of believers, are also to be one; one in purpose and goal, if not always practice. That is why I previously described us all this way:

We are people who love those who are like us and those who are unlike us. We treat everyone the way we want to be treated as human beings. If someone has needs like food, water, or companionship, we do our best to provide for those needs, not just because the other person needs them, but for the sake of our love for God and His love for us. When we show this kind of love, we’re telling people this is how God loves all human beings. Our actions are our witness and speak much, much louder than all the sermons ever spoken and all the religious tracts and pamphlets ever shoved into undesiring hands.

If only these thoughts were at the forefront of all our desires and actions in the name of Christ. Sadly, they aren’t, at least not all the time. We very often focus on the differences between the different groups of believers within “mainstream Christianity” and also outside of what Christians might consider the norm, such as the Hebrew Roots movement. We erect fences between our various groups and then take theological pot shots at each other over those fences, which can’t help but accentuate our differences at the expense of our “oneness” in Christ.

There’s got to be a better way…and there is. The better way is suggested in the following words from an unpublished manuscript that is not yet ready to be openly discussed and reviewed:

I am going to propose a radical solution. This solution may not work for everyone—I do not believe that every Messianic Gentile would fit this call. It may not bear fruit in every single instance. But I am convinced that the great task and mission of the Gentile Hebrew Roots movement is not to form a new religion or a new denomination (though again, I believe that solid, grounded Messianic congregations—Jewish and Gentile—are necessary).

The great mission of the Messianic Gentile is to be that voice within the church that speaks gently but firmly against supersessionism and the doctrinal errors associated with it; that speaks toward the church’s connection with the land, the people, and the scriptures of Israel; that inspires people to connect with Jesus in a new and fresh way and to follow his teachings with unprecedented zeal.

This mission requires that many Messianic Gentiles get involved with churches. They must build and maintain a positive relationship with congregational Christianity, and affirm what is good and right in their mother faith. They must build real relationships with Christians and show them personally what it means to follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

The single outstanding advantage the (Gentile) Hebrew Roots movement has over traditional Christianity is in its grasp of the Jewishness of Jesus as Israel’s King and Messiah. The single outstanding disadvantage the Hebrew Roots movement labors under is in allowing that information to focus their attention on “minutiae” such as how to tie tzitzit, what foods are considered kosher, and whether or not it is permitted to drive to services on Shabbat. I’m not saying such questions are entirely unimportant, but in those topics being paramount, unity and love between different groups of disciples gets put on the back burner, usually forever.

We can change that, both those in the Hebrew Roots movement and those attached to the mainstream Christian church. We can decide to actually communicate with each other. We can decide to set differences aside and focus on similarities. Are not the Christian in the church and the Hebrew Roots person in the Shabbat congregation both commanded to do good to others, to feed the hungry, to visit the sick, to comfort the mourning? Are we all not commanded by the Master to love one another as he has loved us?

Considering the strife between different denominations within traditional Christianity, let alone the friction between Hebrew Roots and the church, we don’t seem to be doing a very good job at obeying the Messiah’s commandment. Particularly for Hebrew Roots or Messianic people, who take great pride in being “obedient to the commandments,” if you are not obeying the commandment to love, the rest of the Torah is meaningless to you.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

Can we love our good shepherd but hate the other sheep? Being human, loving one another isn’t always easy. But being sheep of the good shepherd, who loved us with a love that cost him his life, if we aren’t willing to make sacrifices to love each other, then when we say we love him, we are lying.

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