One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34
As a child I loved the Charlie Brown and the Peanuts characters. As an adult, I have loved the insight and honesty of Charles Schulz. He seemed to understand how hard it is, even for Linus and me to follow the "love" commandments. Loving God might be easier to some, but loving our neighbors is so much harder. Folks can get under our skin so easily. We can be so filled with anger that we forget how important, particularly now, the commandment to love our neighbor truly is. It is key to our survival and everyone thriving.
Jesus has a confrontation with a scribe, a learned religious leader, who wants to trip up the incarnation of God. Jesus, after this conversation reminds tells he is not far from the reign of God. Jesus acknowledges the scholar's grasp of the law. He also invites us to draw nearer to God by truly living out those commandments. We cannot draw close to God unless we love our neighbors, and see the importance of embracing all our neighbors, event those who we find difficult to love.
Today, I ask God to help me draw close by extending my hand and heart to those around me. May we find ourselves treating everyone like beloved family today so that all can draw closer to the living God who loves us more than we can even fathom.