Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:31)
Religious leaders, who were jealous about Jesus, sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They asked a difficult question about tax: whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them. They could not trap Jesus because Jesus pointed God rather than earthly ones.
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” He had been struggling for a long time with this question.
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
The teacher of religious law immediately replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love God with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
The teacher of religious law finally found the answer and the truth that he had been looking for. He was really joyful. Then he immediately connected the most precious one to him: the law that he had been teaching and all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices that he had offered with loving God and neighbor. Then he professed that loving God and neighbor is more important than the most precious to him – being a teacher of the law and practicing the law. Since then, the teacher must have taught and lived out the highest commandment — loving God and neighbor. Yes, we also love God with all of our mind and soul, and love our neighbor.
Then we can ask what does “love neighbor” really mean? Jesus gave the greatest example of how to love our neighbor. When Jesus told his disciples about the upcoming betrayal of one of His disciples and his arrest. Peter confidently told He would never forsake Jesus. Even so, Peter denied Jesus before people including a servant girl when Jesus was captured, as Jesus foretold about Peter’s denial. Jesus had to eyewitness Peter’s denial with His own eyes. Soon Jesus was flogged and crucified on the cross. On the cross, Jesus forgave Peter’s sin and the sins of others including mine. Then He took the wrath of the sins, and died as our atonement for all of our sins. Three days later, Jesus rose again from the death, and became the first fruit of resurrection for all.
After His resurrection, Jesus came to Peter, who was suffering from the guilt of denying Jesus. He recited many times in his heart. He failed. He said he would not leave Jesus although all others would leave, and he would lay down his life for Jesus if needed. Peter could not get out of this deep despair and terrible guilt of his sin of betrayal of his loving teacher,
Jesus did talk about anything, but gently asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Not just once, but three times, Jesus asked the same question. Jesus gave the opportunity of healing of his guilt. He gave an assurance of full forgiveness of Peter’s sin – Peter denial of three times, and blot out the bitterness in the deepest part of Peter’s heart. Jesus restored Peter, and made him fully ready for Peter’s next mission for God. Soon after Peter received the power of the Holy Spirit, he boldly proclaimed Jesus, the Risen Lord, the truth and the salvation. The forgiven Peter could bring thousands to the Lord, and expanded His kingdom one earth. This is the power of the forgiveness and Love of Jesus Christ.
We all have neighbors. Do we really love our neighbor? How do we know whether we truly love our neighbor? Please look closely what Jesus did. He forgave Peter, and then restored Peter with His Love. We are all humans, who are not perfect. There are always something bothering or even hurting between us and neighbor. Then, how to love our neighbor? The first step is to forgive our neighbor. Yes, forgive our neighbor regardless what they did to us. (Neighbor means our next-door neighbor physically living right next to us, a coworker in workplace, a family member or relative, and eventually anyone around us or somehow related to us.) Then on the firm foundation of the forgiveness, we will be able to restore and build up our neighbor with the love of Jesus as Jesus did. An unforgiving heart undermines our heart, while a forgiven heart liberates us by freeing us from the bondage of the bitterness of unforgiveness. True forgiveness of our neighbor is the first step of loving neighbor.
Give thanks to Jesus, who showed how to love neighbor! Peter failed, but Jesus did not. Jesus fully forgave Peter first. On the firm foundation of the forgiveness, Jesus restored and build up Peter. We are an ambassador of Jesus Christ. The first step is to forgive and forget our neighbor’s faults, offenses and sins, and then we restore, build up and encourage our neighbor with the love of Jesus Christ.
bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossian 3:13-14)
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