For several weeks I’ve been mulling over how to put some old thoughts into today’s words. Finally the answer came. PAY IT FORWARD .
When an expert in Jewish law asked Jesus “Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses,” Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important; Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39). In today’s language – PAY IT FORWARD.
This is similar to the covenant the Lord made with Abraham. The Lord said He would bless Abraham, make his family a great nation and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through them. The last part of that covenant indicates that Abraham’s descendants would PAY IT FORWARD.
For hundreds of years the nation of Israel protected itself from other nations of the world while they looked for a Messiah to deliver them. They didn’t realize that their Messiah, one of their own, was going to PAY IT FORWARD on their behalf to fulfill that final part of God’s covenant with Israel. Jesus said in John 12:32: And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself (He was indicating how He would die.) God loved the WORLD so much that He gave His one and only Son so that EVERYONE who believes in Him will have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT. All nations!
Saul was an expert in Jewish law. He killed Christians and encouraged others to do so too. He didn’t understand that their Messiah had already come to PAY IT FORWARD until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and realized the Messiah had come. His life was transformed and he spent the rest of his life PAYING IT FORWARD to non-Jews (us).
The ‘church’ has not replaced Israel as the true people of God, we have joined them. To be “in Christ” means we have joined a new human race that cuts across cultural, racial and gender lines. Paul expands on that in Galatians 3:28-29: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus and now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” That also means that we are to PAY IT FORWARD. “Go into all the world and preach the God news to everyone.” Matt. 16:15.
And how about the ‘love your neighbor’ aspect? In the story of the good Samaritan, the neighbor turned out to be a person from a nation that Israel despised, that they protected themselves from. There are some deep lessons imbedded in this passage for us. Any culture, ethnic group or anyone with a different sexual orientation that you despise? Jesus calls them neighbors. God didn’t tell us to join them He told us to love them. If you take food to a friend who is grieving or ill – find a ‘neighbor’ to bless in that way too. Do you shovel a sidewalk for a friend? Find a ‘neighbor’ and PAY IT FORWARD.
I heard a song the other day, new to me, but it quickly became a favourite. Love is a Verb, by John Mayor. Love is not a thing, love is a verb. The song ends with this phrase: “So you gotta show me, show me, show, me, that love is a verb.”