Not Far from the Kingdom

Deuteronomy6_4A scribe came to Jesus and asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”  His response was to quote the beloved Shema, “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.”  Then Jesus added to it by saying, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Scribe told Jesus, “You are right, Teacher, you have truly said that God is one…and to love God and to love one’s neighbor is much more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  When Jesus saw that the scribe answered wisely he said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

That is an interesting statement.  “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”  Many times when we talk about the Kingdom of God we think in terms of pearly gates and golden streets.  But a reading of Jesus’ teaching tells us that the Kingdom is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.  It is not something that we enter, rather it is something that enters into us.  And apparently, it has a lot to do with love.

Many people have a warped perception that God is somehow out to get us, or to zap us with judgment every time we do something wrong.  That may be true of some of God’s self-proclaimed defenders, but the Bible tells us that  “God is Love.”  In other words, God’s very nature is to love us.  God’s not out to get you.  God wants the very best for you.  God didn’t send Jesus into the world to judge you.  Jesus showed us that God loves us no matter what we have done with our lives.

So, what is our proper response to such a tremendous love?  Well, the proper response to any love is to reciprocate and mimic it.  In the most often quoted verse of the Bible we are told that “God so loved the world that God sent God’s only son, that whoever is faithful to him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  Our proper response  to such love is to “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.”  And we mimic the love that God has for us by showing that same kind of love for each other.

Wouldn’t the world be such a  better place if everyone practiced a life of loving God and loving others?  It almost sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?  Maybe, if we do these things we too will not be far from God’s kingdom.

Tim Hobbs, Pastor

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