In the New Testament book of Matthew, we find an exchange between an expert in the Jewish law and Jesus. Here's what the Bible says in Matthew 22:34-40...
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
"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. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
As we step into this passage, we see that Jesus is in the midst of questioning with the Sadducees and then the Pharisees, (as we say in our church, these are the "paid professional holy people" of Jesus' day) who are trying to trap him in what he is teaching.
It says they huddled up and one of them asked about the greatest commandment in the law. This was something that they would have probably sat around arguing all the time trying to decide if one law was big or small, heavy or light. So they try to catch Jesus in something they can hammer him in.
Jesus points them, as he so often did, back to the Old Testament – see Deuteronomy 6:5 – and calms the crowd. He says first that we are to love God with everything we have. One writer says that it means that we are to love God with all the “faculties” that God has given us.
- Heart – who you are and how it’s lived out – words, deeds, thoughts
- Soul – emotionally who you are
- Mind – intellect as well as attitudes and disposition
Jesus says this is the most important thing. This is FIRST.
Those who know Todd would tell you that Jesus was first in his life. Todd had, what I would call, a quiet, calm faith. He was not shy about his faith in Christ, but he was not pushy. Todd exhibited his faith in through his daily living and would point you back to Jesus as the reason he lived the way he did.
Then Jesus goes on to tell them that the SECOND is to love your neighbor as yourself. I think we kind of get that one. We’ve heard it all of our lives, especially when we’ve been bad or mean.
There are times when it's simply difficult to love others as we love ourselves. When Todd was young, probably 4 years old, he was at our grandmother's home with our cousin, Stephen, when the phone rang. As so often is the case, the cousins raced and then fought to answer the phone. Our MawMaw remembered the exchange well because Todd used a phrase she had often used when disciplining these two energetic cousins. Stephen had won the initial battle to get the phone when Todd took matters into his own hands, proclaiming "this hurts me more than it hurts you!” as he punched Stephen in the face and successfully commandeered the phone. I have a feeling that on that day, MawMaw told Todd to love his cousin as himself! Thankfully, Todd did not embrace that sort of "leadership" later in life!
It's difficult to put others first, but certainly not impossible. It takes discipline and humility, it simply means loving others well and taking a back seat often for ourselves. Ultimately, Jesus is saying that the beginning is love. Everything revolves around love. That we love God with our everything and that will bear itself out by loving other people.
You see that’s the beginning! That’s where we begin and where Todd would always point you… to love God and love people. As a Foundation, we will do all we can to help others, to take care of families and to point folks toward Jesus. That’s our everything! That's our all! That's how we have survived these past three years. We miss Todd each day. Our grief, though dulled a bit, is still very real and very painful. But we have hope. We have hope in Jesus. We know that because of what Christ did for us through the cross that one day those of us "in Jesus" will see Todd again. We long for that day.
But until that day, we will strive to do what Todd did each day - Be THIRD. We'll strive to put Jesus first, to keep our focus on Him because to live simply for ourselves is hopeless and has no lasting value. Jesus gives us reason to get up in the morning, even in the midst of grief. Then, we'll work to put others second, ahead of ourselves. That's how Todd lived and, quite simply, how he died. I would say that's an honorable way to live and die - and I'm proud of my brother for that. Lastly, we'll try to be disciplined like Todd and put ourselves third. That's what our youth pastor, Becky Black, taught Todd early on and it proved to be the model of his life.
Todd was a great man. Let's work to be more like Todd - BE THIRD!