Is it possible for a set of writings as big and as varied as the Bible to have a single "takeaway message?" You'd think not. After all, it's made up of 39 (or more, depending on who you ask) books of Hebrew Scripture, 27 (or more) books in the New Testament, in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), written over centuries by multiple authors.
It's a good thing, then, that a lawyer asked Jesus to clarify: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
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."
But wait... Jesus didn't stop here. He kept talking:
"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40
(What was that? All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments!)
In the book of Mark, he says "There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31 In the book of Luke, he says, "Do this and you will live." Luke 10:26-28
"Neighbor," as Jesus explains in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is also understood as "enemy."
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:43
There's not a lot of wiggle-room here. Christians are called to love our neighbors and our enemies, no matter what we think of them. Anyone who says otherwise is disobeying God's word.
So what's the takeaway message?
That's not too complicated, is it? Some translations say one word:
What ISN'T included in this? Let's see...
Hate isn't love.
Arguing, yelling, picketing, name-calling, belittling, bullying, killing... those aren't love either. Call them what you want, but if you're busy doing any of those things, you might not have time to do the ONE THING that God wants you to do.
Peace, Love, Neighbors