One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (NIV)
A church should never be considered so full that it can’t accept one more believer. A person should never be so busy they can’t offer a little help to someone in need. We’re living in a world of walls, and we need to remind ourselves that our faith demands that we not put walls up, but knock them down in the name of Jesus Christ.
With Jesus’ name on our lips, it’s time to get to the source of the call to make room. We have considered what Peter and Paul had to say on this subject. We’ve seen how they call us to humble ourselves and open our doors, to offer ourselves to those who are struggling and searching for God, no matter how different we are on the surface.
They got their attitude from Jesus, who wasn’t interested in barriers. He wasn’t interested in who called themselves Samaritans or who started out rich or poor. Remember that this was a very divided world, one in which the majority of the people were peasants working the land, barely getting by in a country occupied by a rich foreign power that took heavy tax and enforced its laws brutally.
People wanted to fight, to call out those who wore the fancier cloaks or who spit on beggars with their hands out. People were angry and in no mood to make room for anyone. “I barely have enough for me, why should I make room for my brother or my sister?”
So, when Jesus was asked by a teacher of the law what the most important commandment was, it was a loaded question. Jesus could have chosen any number of more popular answers among the divisive laws in the Old Testament. He could have referenced Exodus 23:33 that forbid foreigners to settle in the land, or Deuteronomy 7:3 that forbid intermarriage with outsiders. He might have put Leviticus 19:17 first, which says forgiveness is absolute for fellow Israelites, but only for them.
Instead, he chose to get to the heart of faith, that God is everything and it is our purpose to worship him, that God is so deeply set in our hearts that we are nothing without Him, that all we can do is love Him. Then, He blew up all the ancient world walls and said we must take that divine love and love our neighbor.
Now, who is that neighbor? Not a Jew or a Gentile—remember, God makes no such distinction. No, our neighbor is everyone, anyone in search of God, anyone looking for the entrance of the church. We might live next to people of different colors and origins; our neighbor on the right may be rich, and our neighbor on the left might be poor. It doesn’t matter. We are to love them all. Equally. And we are to welcome them all—equally—to God.
Given all the commandments of the Old Testament, Jesus chose only those two. Our hearts are to be opened for love and love only, not for anger or hatred, not for prejudice or ignorance. These two truths build off one another. You cannot have one without the other. If you worship Jesus, you must love your neighbor. If you love your neighbor, it is through the love of God.
Put this way, we know we must make room. Our church doors must be open and our homes must be open. Our minds must be open against prejudice, and our hearts must be open for love of every one of our neighbors in Christ.
As Jesus said, “There is no commandment greater than these.”