TEXT: Matthew 22:34-46
TITLE: “Making Sense of the Bible“
THESIS: Love makes sense of everything else, for God is love.
- It will not surprise anyone to hear that people have different ideas about what the Bible says – about any number of things. “Proof texts” are easy to find on any topic.
- Is it possible to read the Bible – to make sense of the Bible – so that we have confidence we can know what is true and right?
- If Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) – if Jesus is the Son of God – if we know God the Father when we know Jesus – then Jesus is the key to understanding and making sense of it all.
- Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Dt. 6) – Jewish tradition says there are 613 commandments in the Law of Moses, and this is #1 according to Jesus. …
- And #2? … And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev 19) …. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. … If we do these 2 things well, we don’t need to even know the rest. …. Leviticus is full of commandments and rituals and legal requirements. Jesus pulled this one out from the rest and said: “This is it. Do this and you will fulfill the law.”
- Paul agrees in Romans 13: 8whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
- The Bible does include stories of violence, revenge, harsh judgments, destruction of enemies – all stories that do not agree with love. And even in the NT, apocalyptic descriptions about the end of the world (as in Revelation), seem opposed to love, at least on the surface.
- So how do we make sense of it? – Not with a “flat” and literal reading of scripture. Everything in the Bible does not carry the same weight of truth, revealing who God is. … So how do we know what is true in the midst of it all?
- Jesus said, “I am truth.” – He said, “If you have seen me and know me, you see and know the Father.” – Christians believe that Jesus came to show us who God is (the incarnation – God in the flesh). – The more we know Jesus – his stories and words and actions – the more we know who God is.
- The gospels show Jesus to be a person of compassion and justice. Someone who treated people – especially the poor and neglected – with love and respect. He said and did this – treat other people the way you want them to treat you. And he taught and lived that our lives are about serving and giving ourselves to others.
- An article I read last week posed these questions: “How do we see God? What is God like?” – Is God a loving and forgiving God – or a judgmental and punitive God? – And is justice retributive or restorative – punishing or healing – and is God one who seeks to punish or to heal?
- The realities of our world are not either/or, though – not just one or the other. God is certainly more complex than just one or the other. Jesus also got angry. He had harsh words for hypocrites and false teachers. He talked about people experiencing harsh consequences for their unbelief and sin.
- Yet Jesus never lost sight of love. Love for God and for people motivated him in everything. He said “love your enemies” and then forgave those who crucified him.
- Put all the stories and words of scripture to a “love test” to make sense of them. – What would Jesus do? What did he do? What did he teach and practice and call us to do? – Any story or word of scripture that does not pass the “love test” should be taken for what it was – expressing ideas of God that people had at the time. The way they understood God may not have been God as revealed in Jesus.
- When we see God through the “Jesus lens” – when we know God because we know Jesus – his words and actions, his life – then we know God as the one for whom love is always #1. The most important thing. The one thing by which we “test” the truth and make sense of everything else. – For God is love.