Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Aran sweaters from the islands off the West coast of Ireland are intimately linked to the clans who live there. In addition to repelling water, the complex, textured stitch patterns on each garment are purposely designed to identify the people who wear them. In fact, Aran sweaters have been used to help identify bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following an accident at sea.
As Christians, we wear breastplates. They’re not tactile; they’re woven by faith and sewn with the love of our Heavenly Father. Our breastplates work best when we speak to others with love. That doesn’t mean we must harness our beliefs, but information, correction, and admonition to others must always be done in the context of love.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2)
But was Jesus speaking with love or sarcasm when spoke to Nicodemus?
Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things? (John 3:10)
Was Jesus acting with love or anger when he cleared the temple courts?
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market! (John 2:15-16)
From a 21st century perspective where sarcasm and anger prevail, it’s easy for us to interpret the words of Jesus with an “attitude”. So, how do we reconcile statements and actions read in the 21st century with the Jesus of the first century? How do we guarantee that we receive God’s message without the oppressive influence of 21st century culture?
The answer is through love, of course. Origen, who was Bishop of Alexandria during the second century, taught that most people fail to recognize the deeper truths enshrined in scripture, because they don’t realize that aside from a literal reading, we must journey into scripture’s very soul.
When reading the word of God remember the most important commandments. Interpret everything Jesus did as an act of love. Nicodemus didn’t understand; but rather than dismiss him, Jesus showed love by repeating his lesson 3 times. Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables, but there’s no evidence he caused physical harm to anyone in the temple courtyard. Lessons were stern but never punitive.
Each day, in all things, wear your breastplate — your beautiful heavenly Aran sweater — with love. So that everyone will recognize you as a child of God, always.