“What’s the most important commandment?” the man asked.
What a challenging question to ask a religious teacher. They were all important.
Earlier in his teaching, Jesus had said that ALL of the law mattered, that it was necessary to keep ALL of the law. How in the world could he now pick ONE of the commandment as the most important? Wasn’t that saying that some were less important? Maybe less worthy of being kept?
But Jesus answered, almost immediately.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
What Jesus was doing was pulling together two commandments actually. One was the first thing that Jewish people said every morning. It was an affirmation of God as God, and then a statement of devotion.
Love God in every possible way.
- All of your heart, with your passions pointed always to God. With passions for other things brought under the authority of God.
- All of your mind, considering how to direct your thoughts toward God, how to make your thoughts reflect God,
- All your soul, with every spiritual craving being directed toward the spirit of God.
- All your strength, directing the work of your hands toward the glory of God.
And then Jesus adds another dimension, one that changes the equation, that brings the relationships we have with others to the next most important thing: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
In a few days, Jesus will draw these two even more close. He will say, “If you love me, keep my commands.” And then will say, “Here is my command. Love one another.”
Jesus takes all of the commandments, all of the law, all of the rules and sums them up with two statements of relationship. Learn to love God in every way you possibly can. And loving others is part of that love.
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