I first read The Jesus Creed in my first class at Biblical Seminary. It was a neat idea, really, to think about a new way of viewing Jesus ministry through what he noted as the two greatest commandments: love God and love others. So, when I picked up this book again to review it for Paraclete Press, I was struck with a deeper appreciation of what this Jesus Creed looks like. How did Jesus, God incarnate, live out his own creed as a human among humans? Done like this and taken in small doses, the book walks you through Jesus world and shows you all those nuances of what it means to live out the Jesus Creed. But it is through this book, both back in my early days in seminary and in this re-reading, that I've come to realize what it really means to be an Anabaptist. And, as I do so, I realize that the best way of showing love to God is to take on the second part of the Jesus Creed and love my neighbors, whether it is the clean-shaven co-worker in the cubicle next to me, the ex-con at the recovery ministry up the street, or the homeless man begging for money outside of Philadelphia theatre.
Back when I first read this book in the summer of 2009, I was floored.
Love God. Love others. Starting with the Jewish Shema (Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind), adding to it what Jesus added to it with "Love your neighbor as yourself", we can find a simple liturgy to repeat daily to remind us of the simplicity of what it is to follow Jesus. A society that transforms and restores.
Although I have studied both of these topics for many years in college, seminary, and on my own, through reading The Jesus Creed, I have been given a fresh perspective on my life as a Christian and have been invigorated in my desire to serve God and others in ministry. Although the Jesus Creed itself is composed of the familiar Greatest Commandment as found in the Gospels (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31), McKnight devotes the entire first section of the book to carefully unpacking its importance for spiritual formation, both for the first Disciples rooted in Second Temple Judaism and for us as contemporary Christians. In Section Three, Dr. McKnight explains how the Jesus Creed should impact the life of the Church. Before the reader gets to the application stage of the work, he or she is exposed first to six illustrations--stories of important figures in the life and ministry of Jesus including his parents and his Disciples. While I was reading these stories I was filled with hope and new appreciation for how the love of God inspires a believer to use that love as a catalyst to repent, reform, confess, and ultimately restore relationships to where they should be. While the entire work was an encouragement to me, as I continue seeking after God in seminary, no section touched me more personally and viscerally than the last section which describes key events in the life of our Lord through the lens of the Jesus Creed. No other work on Jesus life and teachings has left me with such a passion to get out and serve others in grateful thanksgiving for God loving me first than Scot McKnights The Jesus Creed.
Before Christ was born, Jews all throughout the known world had their own creed. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Jesus answered, The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus amends the Shema with, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And, we all know Jesus certainly demonstrated this in His love for other people. "But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? Francis Schaeffer, in his book, "The Mark of a Christian" summarizes this love of neighbor very succinctly. He writes: "Love, and the unity it attests to, is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world.
His knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures and Jewish tradition shines as he examines the prayers, stories, and creeds of Jesus and their Jewish roots. Scot reveals how the Jewish faith focused on loving God, then Jesus broadens this to included loving our neighbors as well.
Scot McKnight in his book The Jesus Creed approaches this commandment from a slightly different angle than most churches. Instead of only focusing on love of God, Jesus is added a dimension to loving others. Personally, I found this to be a great book for focusing on our call to both love God and to love others. The Jesus Creed is a fairly long book. Overall, though I felt that The Jesus Creed is a book that points us to the heart of the Christian faith, the commandment that Jesus himself said was most important.
The beginning starts off with a bang and you feel he has grasped an imcredibly important concept, yet I felt throughout the book he did not bring to fruition the promise of his work. Either way I feel he overstates his case, yet again neglecting the potential complexity present.
While this concept is not new and Jesus uses this phrase himself, the complexity and theological density of the Bible can at times seem to interfere with its main premise of love. McKnight not only uses the stories of Jesus to convey how we can all love others but uses them to show the different types of love. While he did add on to the Shema to include loving others, I wish McKnight would have specified that the addition was simply to the exact phrase. McKnight perhaps should have more thoroughly explained that Jesus did not add on new laws, but fulfilled them and placed love as the supreme law. Through scripture and theology, he is able to show us that we can apply the law of love to our daily lives, no matter who we are.
I don't understand why they removed the whole last section of chapters from the 10th anniversary edition of this book.