Love God, Love People

Haftarah Reading: Yom Kippur (Isaiah 57:14-58:14)
Gospel Reading: 1 John 4:7-5:13
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Love God. Love your neighbor. All too often we put these two commands in opposition to each other. We act like loving God means enforcing our own religious convictions on everyone else. We act like loving our neighbor means minimizing any Biblical doctrine which might come across as offensive to someone else. Our focus is either on observing ceremonial commandments and being Biblically correct or on feeding the poor and standing up for everyone’s individual rights. I ask you, which is more important: Loving God or loving your neighbor?

Isaiah 58 seems to be written to a people who thought they could love God without loving their neighbor. They fast, they pray. They seek God daily. But, they ignore God’s people. They think they can simply do all the “right things” (those that seem right in their own eyes) without stopping to question what God really wants from them.

It’s really a self-centered worship. The people seek favor from God, so they try to please Him in order to get on His good side. They do the things which they believe will make themselves look impressive in His sight, but in doing so they make God out to be like themselves — selfish.

But, the one who knows the LORD knows that He is not like this. He is not like we are, prone to selfish ambition or fleshly desires. He is love and He loves His people. Those who love God love what He loves. To love God is to love His people (1 John 4:7, 12, 20-21).

That being said, do not think we can simply erase God from the equation. The temptation is to cut out the “middle man,” so to speak, and simply view God as a name for what we call love. But, again, He is not like us. His ways are higher than our ways. Even our most righteous thoughts pale in the light of His wisdom.

As we come to the last few verses of Isaiah 58, we see a subtle turn in tune. Throughout most of the chapter, we are admonished to lend a hand to the oppressed, to open our eyes and ears to the plight of the forgotten. And then, Sabbath. Why? Because Sabbath is God’s rest for the weary.

Sabbath is not man’s invention. We have not the authority to imbue any day with sanctity. Moreover, it points to an even greater reality — the rest which we find in Messiah. If it is in the Sabbath that the original creation found its completion, then it is in the Son of God that the new creation is made full.

To minimize everything that does not fall in line with our culture is to accept humanity as it is and leave it there. That’s not why Messiah came. His work is to transform. We are not like God is. We are broken. Our desires are twisted. Our hearts our turned selfishly inward. We are in need of God’s transforming power. We are in need of His correction, His instruction, and His gift of repentance. How can we truly love another if we withhold from them life? To love your neighbor is to desire God’s best for them (1 John 4:8-10, 13-19; 5:1-3, 10-12).

And God’s best is the transforming power of our Messiah Yeshua, both for this world and the next.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:12)