Thursday, June 13, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Jesus is our neighbor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book on the Salvation of the Rich Man. If you are unfamiliar with Clement or his book, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.
"The Master accordingly, when asked, 'Which is the greatest of the commandments?' says, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;' that no commandment is greater than this (He says), and with exceeding good reason; for it gives command respecting the First and the Greatest, God Himself, our Father, by whom all things were brought into being, and exist, and to whom what is saved returns again." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 27)
Salvation for the rich man, and for the poor man, centers around how we stand in relationship to the commandments of God. Therefore, it is essential that we understand those commandments in their proper order. Jesus clearly states that the greatest of all commandments is this, that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. For it is from Him that we have received our very existence and He alone is our creator and the giver of all life. It is only right, then, that we should owe Him our love, thanks, and gratitude. It is also He who gives us the promise of eternal life, a life whose entrance is found in the love of God.
"and gaining immortality by the very exercise of loving the Father to the extent of one's might and power. For the more one loves God, the more he enters within God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 27)
After this first command, the second, in order, is to love our neighbor.
"The second in order, and not any less than this, He says, is, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' consequently God above thyself. And on His interlocutor inquiring, 'Who is my neighbour?' He did not, in the same way with the Jews, specify the blood-relation, or the fellow-citizen, or the proselyte, or him that had been similarly circumcised, or the man who uses one and the same law." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 28)
When we think of our neighbor, we think of those living close to us, but Jesus was about to redefine that word to those who heard Him and to those whom He taught. Jesus answered in a parable of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead, yet he was,
"pitied by the vilified and excommunicated Samaritan; who did not, like those, pass casually, but came provided with such things as the man in danger required, such as oil, bandages, a beast of burden, money for the inn-keeper, part given now, and part promised." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 28)
Jesus then asked His hearers, "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" (Luke 10:36) Obviously it was the Samaritan and Jesus bids His hearers to go and do likewise.

Both of these commandments center around love, love distinguished and in order; the first part of love God assigns to Himself and the second part to our neighbor, but who is our neighbor? Clement gives an unexpected answer.
"Who else can it be but the Saviour Himself? or who more than He has pitied us, who by the rulers of darkness were all but put to death with many wounds, fears, lusts, passions, pains, deceits, pleasures? Of these wounds the only physician is Jesus, who cuts out the passions thoroughly by the root,—not as the law does the bare effects, the fruits of evil plants, but applies His axe to the roots of wickedness. He it is that poured wine on our wounded souls (the blood of David’s vine), that brought the oil which flows from the compassions of the Father, and bestowed it copiously. He it is that produced the ligatures of health and of salvation that cannot be undone,—Love, Faith, Hope. He it is that subjected angels, and principalities, and powers, for a great reward to serve us." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 29)
We are the ones who have fallen in with robbers in the way; we are the ones beaten and bleeding along the side of the road, we are the ones in need of help, and Jesus is our neighbor who comes to our aid. Jesus is a neighbor to all who are hurting, broken, and in need of a savior. Jesus has come to seek and save those who are lost. Jesus is a neighbor worth of being loved.
"We are therefore to love Him equally with God. And he loves Christ Jesus who does His will and keeps His commandments." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 29)
Let us fulfill the commands of God by loving God our Father and Jesus our Neighbor.

David Robison

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