What’s the most important rule in the Constitution? What is the most important amendment? What’s the most important law in the I.R.S. code? How about the laws in your state: what one is the most important? Or your city? Those questions are almost impossibly tough to answer because there are so many laws and the issue of which is most important may seem like it depends upon who is asking and answering. Supreme Court justices would probably have a hard time answering quickly or definitively.
And yet, when someone asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the whole Old Testament, He was ready with a specific answer, an answer that is profound in its simplicity. It’s an answer that still “works.”
Jesus replied: “ ‘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. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Jesus pulled out two separate laws, one from Leviticus and one from Deuteronomy. The first one is pretty prominent and was commonly memorized. But the other one, about loving your neighbor, is included in a list of miscellaneous commands. But by singling out these two commands, Jesus captured the essence of what God wants for us – a deep love for God, a genuine love for the other guy. One law focuses our attention in a vertical direction. The other is applied horizontally. Like the shape of the cross…
Maybe you have been puzzled by all the “thou shalts” and “begats” of the Bible. Maybe you have wondered if this ancient book can possibly apply in this age of smartphones, 3D printers and drones. Maybe you have tried to live by the 10 commandments or the Sermon on the Mount and have given up in discouragement. If that’s you, then try this: live by just those 2 commands, applying them to your life, your thoughts and attitudes, according to your own level of understanding.
You will be surprised. Pleasantly.