Proper 26 – Year B

Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146; (or Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 119:1-8); Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” – Jonathan Swift

One of the scribes is sitting on the sidelines listening to Jesus debate with some Sadducees. He is impressed by Jesus’ comments. Not to trap Jesus like the others surrounding him, but sincerely, he asks a legal question about what commandment in the law is the greatest (Matthew 22:36). Wow! The Torah has 613 laws. How does one pick? Jesus does not give an original answer. His response about loving God totally and our neighbor as ourselves was a traditional rabbinic summary of the law. By doing so Jesus did not fall into the trap of emphasizing one part of the law over another. He summed up all of the law. But still Jesus’ ideas were way over the heads of his enemies. Should we love God or neighbor first? For Jesus that is a nonsensical question. For him we love God by loving our neighbor. Then who is our neighbor? In ancient Jewish culture those in one’s family, tribe and those who live with you are your neighbors. Your enemies are not neighbors. However, Jesus extends neighbor to everyone. He tells us to love even our enemies. Should our neighbor be extended to the environment and animals as well? Jesus never spoke to that, nor did he deny them membership. Jesus was so countercultural that his adversaries could not possibly grasp what he was even talking about. However, this scribe seemed to get it. Jesus even said he was not far from the Kingdom of God. How about us? Are we far from the Kingdom of God? There has been enough hatred and violence and pettiness and envy and self-righteousness in Christian religion to go around. The scars last a long time. Jonathan Swift was right. Our culture still has trouble with Jesus. When Jesus tells us to love everyone he is not saying that we should have warm fuzzy feelings about everyone. That would be impossible. Love is not essentially shown by a feeling but by action. What we do is what counts in spite of our feelings. Nevertheless, love is a risk. Our hearts might break. Mother Teresa said: “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world fall in.”


In Mark 12:30 Jesus says we should love “with” our whole heart, etc. However, the Greek word used here is “out of.” If we love “out of” our heart, the love must be in there somewhere already. It is natural to us. We just need to dig deep.


I love my children.

Even my dog warms my heart.

My foes! Who said that?