“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
In Matthew 22, Jesus was bombarded with questions from religious leaders of His day. They tried to entrap Jesus with a tricky question. But, like a pack of Wile E. Coyotes try to do in the Roadrunner, their plot was foiled!
Finally, in Matthew 22:36, a lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. If you know anything about the Law, you know it had many, many, many commandments. There were rules to follow, and sacrifices to be made when the rules weren’t followed, and cleansings from illnesses, and ceremonies for special occasions. It was complicated!
But Christ’s answer was simple. He goes back to Deuteronomy, one of the books of the Law, and replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then Christ adds a bonus answer from Leviticus, another book of the law. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Why are these the two greatest commandments? Because they are at the heart of the Jewish Law.
Think about the Ten Commandments (found in Exodus 20:1-17). The first four relate directly to the greatest commandment – to love God more than anything. The last six relate directly to the second greatest commandment – to love others to the same degree you love yourself.
When I love God whole-heartedly, I choose obedience; not out of compulsion but out of my desire to please Him. I want my words and actions to reflect my love for God and His even greater love for me.
When I love God whole-heartedly, I want to treat others well. Because of God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness toward me, I want to show love, grace, mercy and forgiveness toward others.
But I gotta be honest here. I don’t always love God whole-heartedly. The flesh rears its ugly head sometimes. I want what I want, even though it’s going to hurt someone else. I want to do what I want to do, even though God says it’s wrong. What do I do then?
Well, if I’ve already sinned, I repent and ask God’s forgiveness. If I haven’t, I ask for strength not to. Then I reset my heart, my soul, and my mind on God. I go to reminders in scripture about who God is and all He’s done on my behalf, like Moses’ words in Exodus 15:2
“The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My Father’s God, and I will extol Him.”
You are my strength, my song, and my salvation. Thank you for your undying love for me. Help me to live out my love for You by choosing what pleases You and brings You glory. Help me to live out my love for others by treating them with the same regard I expect from them.