He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” – Matthew 22:37-40
One of the reasons I believe Jesus is the Messiah is the stunning brilliance with which he taught. He spoke simply and unconditionally.
While we rules-minded people, like the perennially uptight/self-righteous Pharisees, attempt to find loopholes and debate the finer points of Ten Commandments and hundreds of other ones, Jesus tossed all this out.
He never played the get-out-of-loving card of “…as long as…”
“I will love God as long as things are going my way.”
“I will love God as long as what God says agrees with my lifestyle.”
“I will love God as long as God fits my creed.”
“I will love my neighbor as long as my neighbor looks, thinks, acts, and speaks like me.”
Take out “…as long as…” and we get to Jesus’ unconditional stuff, the make or break of discipleship.
“I will love God when things fall apart.”
“I will love God when God confronts the things I pretend aren’t there.”
“I will love God when I don’t know God as well as I thought.”
“I will love my neighbor especially when my neighbor doesn’t resemble me whatsoever.”
The problem with “…as long as…” is that it’s our way of staying in control, fitting God, life, and neighbors into easy black and white boxes that mask our prejudice. How ugly the Pharisee revealed himself when he complained, “It’s OK for Jesus to heal people, as long as it’s not on the Sabbath.” (Luke 13:14, a slight paraphrase).
The love Jesus talked about pushes us past protecting the law to fulfilling it.