The Greatest Commandment
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
In the closing days of Jesus’ ministry, he issued a series of commands and teachings. Not that I discount any of Jesus’ instruction, but I pay particularly close attention to the things he said near the end, the things he particularly wanted his disciples to remember.
Jesus’ quote above was in response to one of the Pharisees seeking to catch Jesus in heresy. The Pharisee asked him what was the greatest commandment. Despite the disingenuous question, Jesus gave a very genuine answer. The Pharisee may have expected a more theological answer along the lines of the constant debates between the Sadducees and Pharisees, but Jesus’ response was simple – first, love the Lord with everything, and then love your neighbor as yourself.
Interesting that Jesus says “and the second is like it”, suggesting there’s an equivalency between the two. I think that Jesus explained this when he talked about the sheep and the goats. He told of a time when he would separate his people, the sheep, from those who would be cast into hell, the goats. His sheep would be those who had fed him and clothed him in his time of need. These people won’t be conscious of having encountered Jesus to either do or not do these things, and he will respond, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40.)
We love God by loving others, we serve God by serving others. This is not a liberal church v. conservative church thing, and serving others is most certainly not to the exclusion of first loving God and believing in him. These things must come together because they work together.
Lord, let me always love you with my whole heart, and my neighbor as myself. Amen.
~ Stephen Peterson