URC Daily Devotion Monday 11th March 2024

St Mark 12: 28 – 37

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he 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 neighbour 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 neighbour 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. While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?  David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,  until I put your enemies under your feet.’” David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.


I recall walking through the gates of my local URC and being stopped by a curious (Christian) onlooker:
“What kind of church is this?” 
“The United Reformed Church.”
“What kind of church is that?”
“A Christian church.”
“What Bible do you use?” 
The Bible.”
“Do people speak in tongues?”
 “We don’t actively seek for it to happen – but if it did, great!”
A puzzled expression…
“Speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Spirit – but the greatest gift is love.”
Further puzzlement!
“The Bible says only two things are required – love the Lord your God… 
and love your neighbour as yourself.  That’s it!”
“THAT’S IT???”  An expression of sheer incredulity. 
I suggested that we both go away and ponder.
I don’t understand the compulsion to believe that everyone else must believe like us.  Who gave any of us a monopoly on truth?
Whenever I hear the words ‘As Christians, we believe…’, I brace myself for the latest lesson in why I am not a Christian. 

Why do we make so complex that which God apparently makes so simple? 
And what if I share my conviction that adherents of other faiths do not need to be converted to Christianity to be alright with God?  (There’s that look of horror and incredulity again!)
We are commanded to love God – and love our neighbour.  Is that only possible within the context of Christianity?  Only within the context of Christianity as understood and practised by me – me, with my human limitations, biases and prejudices? 
And is it truly loving someone if my agenda is to change them – regarding faith, culture, sexuality… (I could go on)? 
Surely, claiming to love God, whom we cannot see, is meaningless until we actively commit ourselves to loving the people God has gifted into our midst.  And surely, if we truly practised loving our neighbours – in all their complex, challenging, confusing diversity – our world would be much closer to the place our One God created it to be.

God who is Love,
Call us to love.
God who is One,
Call us to be one –
Not a self-focussed ‘oneness’
Requiring others to be ‘like me’,
But an open, self-giving, other-receiving love
In which all your children
Have space to live and breathe,
And be the selves you created them to be.  Amen

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