The Evidence of Love

love-in-lightsThe Alter Rebbe repeated what the Mezritcher Maggid said quoting the Baal Shem Tov: “Love your fellow like yourself” is an interpretation of and commentary on “Love Hashem your G-d.” He who loves his fellow-Jew loves G-d, because the Jew has with in himself a “part of G-d Above.” Therefore, when one loves the Jew – i.e. his inner essence – one loves G-d.

“Today’s Day”
Friday, Menachem Av 12, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31 (NASB)

I would hardly suggest that the commentary I found in an email I received from Chabad.org was intended to map back to the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus), but the comparison really stands out. Perhaps it is one of those lessons that is equally apparent from a Jewish and Christian point of view, except that Jesus was a Jewish teacher talking to a Jewish scribe within a wholly Jewish context. We non-Jews get that point (or should get it) somewhat after the fact, so it would be wise of us not to do away with the Jewish framework in which the Master was teaching. That’s what gives his lessons their full meaning.

The “Today’s Day” commentary is specifically addressing a Jewish audience as well, which is obvious since it discusses one Jew loving another Jew as being equal to loving God, rather than one human being loving another. The interesting question is, when Jesus was teaching the two greatest commandments, did he mean that loving your neighbor is loving your Jewish neighbor?

That could very well have been the case, if you look at who Jesus was addressing and where this conversation was taking place. I don’t mean that Jesus was unconscious of the larger application of his teaching, but it hadn’t gotten that far yet. He came for the lost sheep of Israel not the lost sheep of planet Earth…well, not at that time. He assigned that job (gathering the lost sheep from the nations) to Paul on the road to Damascus some time later.

As impossible as it sounds, as absurd as it may seem: The mandate of darkness is to become light; the mandate of a busy, messy world is to find oneness.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Mandate of Darkness”
Chabad.org

It’s important to remember that Rabbi Freeman is also addressing a Jewish audience, so don’t go crazy and assume he believes that Jews and Gentiles (particularly Christians) should all be “one.” Except that in Judaism, it is believed that Messiah will unite humanity in peace, not as a homogeneous body of human beings, but as Jews and Gentiles who are all subject to the King, who will come (return) and rule with a rod of iron. We will all be “one” in the sense that we will all be subjects of the King.

Even in the Messianic age though, as I understand it, people will still have the choice as to whether or not to acknowledge and obey the King. On the other hand, it does say that every knee shall bow. But there will still be Israel that is blessed by God and the people of the nations who are blessed through Israel; the people of the nations who are called by His Name.

But what is to be learned from this? Not that those of us who put ourselves under the authority of the King will all be cookie-cutter, carbon copies of one another. What is to be learned is that we will love one another and in fact, all disciples of the Master are commanded to love one another right now.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:34 (NASB)

arguing-with-godWithin the context of being disciples of Jesus, both Jewish and non-Jewish followers are commanded to love each other, regardless of our differences. That’s a rather tall order. I once heard a retired Pastor say that he’s seen churches split over what color to paint the walls of the Fellowship Hall. We don’t get along easily, let alone love one another. But if the Baal Shem Tov is correct and loving your fellow human being (I’ll adapt his teaching to be more generalized) is equivalent to our inner essence loving God, then the reverse must be true. Hostility, envy, anger, and hatred toward our “neighbor” must also be the expression of those emotions toward God.

That’s a horrible thought.

I don’t know if it’s true or not but if we were to even pretend it is, our motivation to love should become a great deal more plain. If we say we love God with all our heart and with every fiber of our being (most people tend to exaggerate the extent of their ability to love, but let’s say we are capable of this), then the evidence of our statement is how we treat other people, particularly within the community of faith.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:35 (NASB)

See? Love (or lack thereof) of our fellow believer is evidence of whether or not we actually do love God. People will know us as disciples of the Master by how we love each other. God, of course, already knows.

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4 thoughts on “The Evidence of Love”

  1. Well….I would agree with the thought that Jesus meant “your Jewish neighbor” and I am certainly one who wholly agrees that the entire context of the New Covenant is Jewish (they didn’t think of ‘Christian vs Jew” the way we do today), however, when the question was specifically asked, “Who is my neighbor” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. So in this specific case, because He was answering that specific question: who is my neighbor? I think we must go with his answer.

    But perhaps I’m being a bit nit-picky. I agree with everything else.

    God bless you Jim..

  2. Thanks, Dree.

    True, I had neglected the parable, though it was told within the context of Jewish/Samaritan relationships. Jesus didn’t have a lot of focus on people from the nations, though it was clearly his plan to include them/us as we see in the book of Acts.

    In the end, we are all neighbors.

    God bless you, Dree.

  3. The prophet Isaiah tells us that his house will be a house of prayer for all nations. I believe Yeshua made it clear that his family were those who did the will of the Father, and our neighbors are all who the Holy One brings across our path, not just those who share our faith or heritage. The Tanya, the central work of Chabad, also claims that gentiles only have an animal soul, and not a higher soul that is from God. Of course they try to explain that message this way and that way, but that thinking still stands among that faction, and other factions accept these teachings also.

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