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THE GREAT COMMANDMENT
Rev. Juan B. Cabanting

(Bible Lesson: Matthew 22:34-40)
One of the Pharisees that went to Jesus was a lawyer and he asked Jesus a question, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And Jesus answered him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,  with all your soul, and with all your mind; this is the great and first commandment."
  
Following the calendar of the Church year, today is scheduled as a World Order Day or a Day of World Peace. Basic to the Christian faith is the affirmation  that God has  a plan for the whole world and human history. He has a plan for the entire affair of humanity. And that plan was made known to us through His Son Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:9, 10 we read, "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

In this statement, the Christian faith affirms that God wills world order, world peace and world community. But there is more! And this is the Good News for the world that God in Christ has already made world order, peace and community possible. The redemptive work of Christ has a double aspect of fulfillment and expectation. In Christ, God has reconciled the world into Himself. The kingdom has indeed come by and through Christ and this conviction has to be realized in this world. Yet, the kingdom and the Lordship of Christ is hidden, meaning it is not yet acknowledged by all princes of this world and will be recognized only at the end of time. Therefore, the Christian community is to witness faithfully in the firm conviction that the powers of the future are already at worse in this world since at the cross, reconciliation with God has taken place and the powers of Satan was broken. This basic orientation of the Gospel needs to be related through our preaching and teaching, to the role of the Church in witnessing to the  world its desperate need, to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ who will unite in Himself the whole human family.
 
I. The Church and World Order
      
As I have said a while ago, God has a plan for the whole world and all human history and that plan was made known to us through Jesus Christ. The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in this world means the existence of the Church. And the Church is not just a group of persons similar to an ordinary organization. The Church is a term in the New Testament referring to the people of God. The coming of Jesus Christ on earth was a coming to reconcile the lost world unto God. Paul puts it in this way, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself". Christ was God in action seeking the lost, bringing them to God.
  
Now, what qualifies anybody to become a part and parcel of the Church? To become a member of the Church is not just to accept  the laws and ordinances of the Church literally. To become a part and parcel of the Church which is the Body of Christ is to receive God's grace and life through faith in Jesus Christ. And only as we accept God's freely offered gift of salvation can we become true members of the Church. Faith is the total giving of ourselves to Him , for Him to use according to His will. It is the key that unlock the human heart to submit to God. It is a faith produced by the power of the Holy Spirit moving upon the life of an individual.Then it must be noted down very seriously that the Church exists because it is God's mission. The Church is in the world but not of the world. It is the world to live a Christ-like life. It is the world to witness for Christ. It is the world to turn the world upside down. Again, it should not be neglected to point out here that the strength and power of the church  come from God in Jesus Christ. It is the power of God's  love to change the lives of the people.The Church exists not because of anything else, but because it is God's mission. It functions only within the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. It functions as one that demonstrates in the world what we call world-order, world peace.
 
II. The Body of Christ for the unity of all mankind.
  
God's plan ever since the beginning is to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. This is affirmed by the great Apostle Paul when he said, "For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in  heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10)
  
The Church is the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ wherein God could work for the unity of mankind. But before we go on further on this idea of unity, may I say that world order, world unity and world peace is already made possible by the Lord Jesus Christ. His work on the Cross of Calvary is the evidence of this truth.
 
In the Philippines these days, there is a great issue of organic unity. There is a move to unite organically all religious denominations. But if we try to see this issue of organic unity in the light of the theological interpretation of the Church, we come to realize that oneness or unity is not something that is to be achieved by man. Unity is God's own work. It is God's alone. Unity is God given. And I believe that man has no business to work for the unity of the Church because the Church is God's own creation which in itself is one. Man's part only is to be obedient to Christ and what he is called for is to demonstrate in life the oneness of God in Christ.

In John 17, we read about Jesus praying for His disciples. And in a part of his prayer says, "Holy father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." When Jesus prayed this prayer for His disciples, He prayed it for them not that they were disunited but that they must show to the world that they are one, as the Father and Jesus are one. They must show to the world that they are one in purpose, one in service and one in love. Jesus said to His disciples, "Ye are my disciples if ye love one another."

So, unity is not to be worked for by man. It is not to be achieved by man. Unity is God-given and the Church is one. The existence of the different religious bodies is very possible but their oneness or unity is manifested through the oneness in spirit , in service, in purpose and in love.
  
And let the Church be the Body of Christ wherein God can work His own purpose of uniting all mankind. Let the Church be the church wherein the Lordship of Jesus Christ be acknowledged by all people of every generation. And I believe that all who acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ are one in spirit, one in service, in purpose and in love. This I believe, is what Jesus meant when He said, "That they may be one , even as my Father and I are one."
  
The reason why unity of all mankind is not yet attained through and in the Church is the fact that, many have not yet recognized and acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  When all the powers and princes of this world will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, there is no doubt, unity is attained.
 
III. Love as the law of life of the Church.
  
Going back to our text this morning, the lawyer who went to ask Jesus  "What is the great commandment in the law" was answered fairly. Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the great commandment. And this is the law of life of the Church . A Church to be truly a Church must be grounded on love, must be founded on love, must be established by love, must be fed by love, and must be sustained by love.
  
The Church is created not by man, but by God- the God of love. The Church came into existence because of God's love. And to say that God is love implies that all His activity is a loving activity. If He creates, He creates  in love. If He rules, He rules in love. If He judges, He judges in love. For the Church to witness faithfully in this wicked world of ours and in order that t God could work His purpose to  unite all mankind, this Church must live the great commandment. Its life in other words, must be discerned by the great commandment. And let every member therein receive and practice in his or in her life the great commandment.  For I believe that it is only as we receive it, shall we be able to practice it.
  
In this connection, an author says,"Only when man surrenders that which has value for his own life in order to enrich the life of another does he love." This is precisely what Jesus did on the Cross of Calvary. He surrendered on the Cross that which has value for himself in order to give us abundant life. And God is willing to impart His love into our lives but it is only when we give Him our lives that His love would come upon us. And once His love has come upon us, the love by which we shall be able to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, is no longer our own human selfish love but the divine love with which God has loved us. The Epistle of John says, "We love because He first loved us." I believe that our love for God naturally carries with it love for our fellow men. It carries with it love for relatives, for friends, for children, for husband, for wife, and for everybody. "Love to God and love to man are so inseparable that the presence of either is the evidence of the other."
  
Dearly beloved and members of the Church, it is apparently implied that we cannot love God without loving our fellow men; parents cannot love God without loving their children, children cannot love God without loving their parents, husbands cannot love God without loving their wives, and wives cannot love God without loving their husbands. And that we cannot genuinely and divinely love God, fellow men, parents, children, wives and husbands, from our own human selfish love but from the love of God that He has imparted to our lives through the grace of faith in Jesus Christ.
  
For a Church to function as a Church, must live in its life that great commandment. And for every one of us to be truly a part and parcel of this Body of the Lord Jesus Christ must faithfully witness in the firm conviction that  "We love because God first loved us." The Lord Jesus Christ said,  "You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." Amen .   
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37 NIV)
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