The Greatest Commandment
Most of you who are reading this will know that when asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said, “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. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” These are the words we see in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, verses 37-40. The same words are repeated in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. These words then dominate what the New Testament writers say to the early church.
The greatest commandment, as it is known, is just as important today as it was when Jesus first spoke these words.
The challenge of living out The Greatest Commandment
For the last two thousand years, followers of Jesus have been wrestling with how to live these words out. They are great words to say, the principle behind them is sound and world-changing, but the reality of what they look like in our individual lives is where the rubber hits the road.
Traditionally the church has sought to express these words by saying that we are a welcoming bunch, even though that brings many challenges for us, especially today when folks don’t fit into our neat little boxes. When have they ever?
Churches throughout the world have sought to give the appearance of being loving through involvement in social services and the participation in mission activities both locally and internationally. Giving money, donating food, giving up a little time. Good things.
When we bring all that the church does together, a lot of people are loved around us.
A personal response
A number of years ago I was preparing for a service on Good Friday, and I was reflecting on all the language we use around the crucifixion. Words about a lamb, blood, sacrifice, and a man on a cross. Whatever way we think about it, it is not an overly pretty picture on Good Friday.
In a moment of reflection, I thought in particular about blood. Jesus’ blood, my blood. My thought process went in the direction of thinking that if Jesus gave his life for me by the spilling of his blood, the minimum I could do in response would be to give a little of my blood and potentially help someone that might need it. Surely that could be considered loving my (unknown) neighbour.
NZ Blood Service
In New Zealand over 3,500 people every week need blood and plasma. The gift of blood can only be given from one person to another, and there is no substitute. The New Zealand Blood Service is responsible for recruiting and processing sufficient blood and plasma donations to meet the needs of our healthcare system each day, every week, of every year. Donating regularly ensures that a safe and plentiful supply of blood is available whenever and wherever it is needed.
A spiritual act
I felt the conviction of God that particular Easter to become a blood donor and have subsequently learnt that less that 3% of people in New Zealand are donors. That’s less than the amount of people who attend church, maybe.
On that conviction, I made it a theme of my Good Friday service. Christ gave his blood for us through death, surely we could give a little of our blood in life, to save another life. It was a spiritual act for me, so much so that I asked a nurse in our congregation to take blood from my arm during my message – seemed fairly appropriate I thought. I don’t think those that went outside the church to throw up in the garden thought it was appropriate.
And yet that day started a journey for me of promoting the gift of life through becoming blood donors as a spiritual act of loving our neighbours as ourselves.
I’d like to say I’ve been diligent as a blood donor over these years. But mission trips to third-world countries count against being too regular. However the season at home during the last eighteen months of the COVID pandemic has enabled more regularity, and now as a plasma donor it’s part of my monthly spiritual rhythm. Every time the needle goes into my arm I think of what Jesus went through for me.
Faith into action
I have found this whole experience to be interestingly spiritual and in a small way it’s part of the vision statement of the church I pastor, where we seek to grow stronger communities by putting our faith into action. Maybe my plasma is used, maybe it isn’t. Like prayer, I’ll let others work that out.
If you’re in New Zealand, I wonder if you’d consider becoming a donor as an act of worship.
People do need you.
Jesus did it for you to completely save your life, so ...
Give blood. Save lives. Takoha Toto, Whakaora Tāngata.
For more information about how you can become a blood or plasma donor, head to https://www.nzblood.co.nz.
It might be bloody, but it is good.
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a church that was planted 65-years ago and comprises people of all generations seeking to reach a community that consists of people of all generations. The tagline of Windsor Park is ‘doing life and faith, together.’ Grant can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.