Love is the Answer
Do you ever marvel at the powerful points of teaching that Jesus sometimes packed into a short ‘sermon’? One such illustration is recorded in three of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus replies to one of the question traps that the Pharisees set by asking Him which of the commandments He would rank as the most important. Jesus’ response was unequivocal as He reached into the Torah and quoted two passages. He said: “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.” This passage from Deuteronomy 6:8 was well known to the Pharisees, as they understood this to be a directive from the mouth of God through Moses when the Israelites were at Mount Sinai.
Then Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18: “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” To say that the second is like the first suggests that Jesus is declaring it as an equally important commandment. These students of the law recognized this directive since it had long been accepted as being God’s absolute command.
In yet an additional comment, Jesus ties these two statements together in a way that may have seemed unusual to the Pharisees. His concluding words were these: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” His answer was that both of these commandments are the greatest and each is as important as the other. They are the greatest because all the other commandments flow from these two. Everything that we do and everyone with whom we have a relationship can actually be impacted by our decision to take God seriously and abide by these two very important commands.
As we consider the Ten Commandments, we understand that the first four relate to our love for God and the last six are related to our love for our fellow human beings—our neighbors, Jesus calls them. When we love God with all our hearts, souls and minds, we will delight to worship Him supremely. We will honor His name and we will remember the Holy time that He created for us to experience each week. These acts toward God reflect our love for Him as He has commanded. But, when we consider the gravity of the relational brokenness so evident in our world today, let’s try adopting a new way of looking at the commandments that relate to others like this:
Love our neighbors and don’t take anything that belongs to them. Honor our parents by not denying them the respect they are due. Don’t take someone’s life–every life belongs to God, it is His gift to them. Don’t commit adultery–which is stealing the intended blessing from God’s plan for marriage. Don’t take anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t give false witness by gossiping or stealing someone’s reputation–their good standing is priceless. Don’t covet anything our neighbor has. Attaching our desire to have something that belongs to our neighbor is dangerous.
Loving God and also loving our neighbors as ourselves is the formula that God gives us to honor Him and live in peace with everyone else. Our neighbors may not speak the same language or share the same ethnicity; however, in the eyes of Jesus, we are all His children, members of the same human family. What would our families, our churches and our communities look like if all of us truly lived our lives in accordance with the principles of these two great commandments? I believe the time is now when we must do just that!
By Phil Robertson, Executive Secretary/Treasurer