In Matthew’s account of Holy Week (chapters 21-28) Jesus is asked THE question by the Pharisees – “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” To which He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it,: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Chapter 22vv36-39). Love God, love others. That’s the Gospel, right there, in four simple words. Because He loves God His Father, Jesus loves others – including you and me. That’s what Holy Week is all about – Jesus demonstrating love for God, and us, by willingly going to the Cross to pay the price of our sin and open up the door for our forgiveness.
It follows then, that if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, that the most important things for us are also to love God, and to love others. But Jesus also calls us to love others as we love ourselves – to want for others what we want for ourselves. It’s a bit of a variant on the “Golden Rule” in Matthew 7v12 – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
The problem we have in our society, which has been amplified by the current health crisis, is that people are more often than not concerned about putting themselves first – “exercising my rights” is how it’s often put – my rights to travel to a beach or a beauty spot; my rights to meet my friends in the local park; my rights to stand closer than 2 metres to someone in a queue.
Truly loving God and loving others means letting go of “my” rights and considering the other person first. This is hard to do because we’re not wired that way, as many people are finding out to their cost. Jesus said this, too – “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15v13) – and that brings us right back to Holy week, and the events of Good Friday in particular. Again, if we call ourselves followers of Jesus we are called to love God and love others by laying down our lives for our friends. Often we struggle to think what that might be like, but right now it’s very easy to define – the greatest love we can show at the moment is to stay indoors unless we absolutely have to go out. Don’t meet up with others. Stay at home and pray for them, and pray for an end to this virus.
Once it’s over we can show our love in lots of different ways – but for now, it’s so simple. Show you love God and you love others by being different, and by doing what you would want others to do for you. Lay down your rights, your “normal” life, so that this thing can be beaten. God will see us through. He will never leave us or forsake us. And He will give us what we need. All we have to do is ask.