Over many years of study and through academic pursuit, I have studied the Holy Bible repeatedly. For most, going through the entire book is a feat in and of itself. But, to go through it repeatedly, it is a feat worthy of note. Each time I go through the Holy Bible, reading the different translations and commentaries and taking copious amounts of notes, I discover so many new things. Just by reading a passage in a different translation or going through the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek translations and understanding the word choice, I walk away with a deeper understanding of the text and a new message to share with my brothers and sisters.
Between my lay studies and scholarly studies, I feel a new appreciation for the Holy Bible. Sometimes it is as simple as better understanding a simple, small word to reading a passage in a particular language or translation. While sharing my epiphanies with others, some will ask me about the simplest message from the Bible.
Jesus gives us the easiest answer when it comes to sharing the Good News. There are really only two things that you come away with when you read the Bible. It doesn’t take a biblical scholar or pastor of a church to share the two most important messages given to us. These simple messages are not complicated at all to understand and can be easily shared with believers and non-believers alike.
The first is how we are to have a relationship with God as well as those around us. It is important to understand not only how we are to have a relationship with God but also with everyone. God created us to be social with one another. In the garden, God sensed Adam’s need for a companion and created a woman to be his companion. Relationships are important and help us to have a grounding in our lives.
In chapter twenty-two of the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees asked Jesus about the most important commandment.
Jesus responds to them, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
These weren’t new ideas to anyone. The first part of the answer regarding our relationship with the Father comes from the Book of Deuteronomy. The second regarding our relationship with each other comes from the Book of Leviticus. In short, there wasn’t anything earth-shattering about Jesus’ answer. But, the thing that makes the difference is acting on both and showing the world that you are truly a child of God.
It is so easy to say that you believe in God, but do you show it? Do you profess your love and devotion to God to others? In this day and age, it is difficult. Many will call you names and tell you are stupid, but you can’t let them deter you. In one of the lines of one of my favorite hymns, “I am Resolved”, it provides you with the truth that we may face as Christians, “Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me, still I will enter in.”
You cannot be deterred by the opposition of friends or the words of those who don’t believe, you must live the simple truth daily. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
The other part of this is to love your neighbor. That is equally as important. But, there is a catch to this. “Neighbor” doesn’t just refer to your friends and those who live close by. It is more than just those who like or love you. This includes your enemies as well. The word, neighbor, is given a different meaning. It means everyone, family, friend and foe alike. Jesus reminds us that we are to love everyone as we love ourselves.
Jesus, in chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew, tells those listening to his Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
It is so difficult for anyone to do these things, but we must be true to the Father. The message is easy, but it is the acting on it that is tough. I know it. I struggle with loving my enemy daily. It is so easy to love those who love you, but it is quite another story to love someone who is your enemy. However, we must learn that lesson and put those words into action.
The last part of this simple message is more about love, but it is the love of the Father for us. We have been so disobedient and sinful. There was no way that we could atone for our sins. No amount of sacrifices could cover the debt of sin we owed. God gave us salvation through His son, Jesus. He died on a cross to wash away our sins and remove the tally marks from our slates.
While having a discussion with a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, Jesus, in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, tells him, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
This is God’s plan for our salvation and gift of undeserved grace. This grace was given out of love and not as something that we earned or could even pay. It was freely given to all as a gift. Understanding the love it took to provide for our atonement is something we can never possibly fathom.
If you look up grace in the Encyclopedia Britannica, it says that grace is “the spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine favor in the salvation of sinners, and the divine influence operating in individuals for their regeneration and sanctification.”
When you combine Jesus’ words with our pitiful understanding of grace, you can see that this part of the simple message will bring you to your knees. It is at that moment that you begin to understand God’s love for you.
As I end my message to you, I ask that you think about this simple message that God has given you and live it each day. If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, I ask that you consider these words not only in your mind but also in your heart. These words will lead you to a decision that will change your entire life.
No matter who you are or what station in life you have by living these words and sharing this simple message, you will stand firm in His grace daily.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.