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  • Writer's picturePhil Rumschlag

Why is Loving Others Such an Important Part of Lent?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus tells us here of the great and first commandment. But He also reminds us of a second that is like it. O, how often I miss this link.

I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when I was reading and preparing for Sunday’s message as I normally do. In those days we were working our way through Mark chapter 2; a place where the Pharisees accuse Jesus over and over of getting things wrong. In particular, how Jesus was getting it wrong in regards to the religious practices of fasting and the Sabbath. The Pharisees were all about “doing” the right things, but often missed the greater point behind those things. And it was while studying, I was pointed to this passage in Isaiah 58.

“Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:5-7

This was an incredibly humbling passage for me, and one that has been whirling in my mind since. Like the Pharisees, it’s very easy for me to get excited and then legalistic about “doing” things for God. Prayer, Bible study, going to church, etc. And Lent is a time where I can really lean into these things and then some, with fasting, and silence, memorizing Scripture, and so on. I can get really into doing these things for God because I want to obey this first and great commandment. But the reality is, if these practices don’t result in me loving and serving others more, then I’m missing the mark, right? Take a moment and read Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46.

We cannot love the Lord well if we do not seek to love others well.

Lent is a time of preparation. A time of entering into the suffering and sacrifice of Christ as we anticipate the coming joy of Resurrection Sunday. And part of entering into that suffering and sacrifice, I think, is entering into why Jesus suffered. And the why is His amazing, unconditional love for others. In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Every moment Jesus was on earth was a moment given for others. Every second of every day, Jesus, the Son of God humbled Himself to serve us, because He loves us, and we too are to have this same mind. (Philippians 2) And so, as we consider our Lenten practices, let us consider, how are they moving me more toward loving and serving others? How are they shaping me to have the mind of Christ? Are there practices that I can intentionally engage in that will move me in that direction, such as participating in a food drive, getting involved in outreach ministry, praying for those that I struggle with, giving anonymously, etc?

We cannot love the Lord well if we do not seek to love others well. So let us ask the Lord to give us His eyes so that we can see them as He does. And let us ask the Lord to give us His heart, so that we can love and serve them in the same way He loves and serves us.

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