When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
One of the teachers of the Law hears the debate going on between Jesus and those who are seeking to catch Him in His words. He asks Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?”
Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second most important is to love your neighbour as you love yourself.’
The man affirms Jesus’ response because he sees that loving God and loving your neighbour are more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Jesus tells the man that he is not far from the Kingdom of God.
Many people take this exchange out of its context and assume that Jesus is all about love- love for God and love for our neighbours.
In a sense this is true, but it misses the full truth. The man was commended by Jesus for his understanding. He declared, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” He did not say, “You are in the kingdom.”
To say we must love God and love our neighbour is what logicians call a “necessary but not sufficient” condition. Yes, those who are in the kingdom will do these things, but so will some who are not in the kingdom.
To say that love for God and for other people is the way into the kingdom overlooks the effect of sin in our lives. I am a sinner so I cannot love God fully. I am a sinner so my love for my neighbour will always be corrupted by judgement or expectation of a return or by resentment.
Before we can love we must deal with the sin problem. We must experience God’s total and unconditional grace. When we say “Yes” to Jesus, He washes away our sins and transforms our heart.
It is Jesus alone who enables us to fulfil His commandment to love.
Jesus, I thank you that your love for me enables me to love you and my neighbour. Continue to remove sin from my heart so that my love is pure. Amen.