eNewsletter Feature Story – October 7, 2021
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton,
FPCE senior pastor.
Chances are you have read Jesus’s famous response to the religious leader’s question, “Which is the greatest commandment?”
Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NRSV)
Love God, and love others; that’s fundamental to everything God requires of us. So Jesus calls his twin commands the greatest and first (love God), and the second is like it (love neighbor).
Pastor Ray, you may ask, is life with God and people in the world really that simple?
You are what you love.
But it is also very complicated because we tend to practice disordered love. According to St. Augustine, disordered love means that we often love less important things more, and more important things less, than we ought to. This wrong prioritization ultimately leads to sin.
Augustine would finally say, You are what you love. Augustine taught that we are most fundamentally shaped not as much by what we believe, or think, or even do, but by what we love. “For when we ask whether somebody is a good person, we are not asking what he believes or hopes for, but what he loves.” For Augustine, what we call human virtues are nothing more than forms of love. Courage is loving your neighbor’s well-being more than your own safety. (See Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller)
Not surprisingly, one of the marks of the last days — the interim time between Christ’s coming and the times in which we live — is that people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:2,4).
The Ten Commandments are God’s manifesto for an ordered and just society that reflects God’s kingdom. But the possibility of a just society depends on love for God and neighbor. Thus, the first five commandments call the believer to love God, and the remaining five call you to love your neighbor (Exodus 20:1-17).
The mission of our church as an extension of God’s Kingdom in the world depends on love: First Pres exists to know Jesus Christ and to grow in Him as we serve and make disciples in Evanston, the Chicago area, and the world. Without love, that mission is impossible, out of reach.
This Sunday marks a shift in our 2 Corinthians teaching series, “Encouragement for a Grace-filled church.”
Open hearts, open hands — our Stewardship emphasis during October — explores the human motivation for generosity based on 2 Corinthians 9-10.
Generosity is never coerced; otherwise, it is manipulation. Instead, Paul writes, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8 NRSV)
In preparation for Sunday, please read 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2 NRSV. As you read, try to observe the ways love motivates God’s action toward people in the world, and our actions toward others and God.
How do I know if my actions are motivated by love? One indicator is when I serve or give without expecting anything in return. I know I’m not motivated by love when my actions are driven by approval, attention, guilt, pride, shame, materialism, or to feel good about myself. Love-motivated deeds give all Glory to God.
See you Sunday, online or in-person,
Pastor Ray Hylton