The Greatest Commandments

He Is Risen!  And we are a people who will be known as followers of the resurrected Jesus by our love.  And yet, we often seem to be known more by our rules, don’t we?  Despite our best efforts at speaking about grace, we still want to come up with a lot of Christian rules.  I suppose it is only normal.  Rules are black and white and easy to understand, whereas love, and much of what Jesus teaches about how to be his disciple is more difficult to understand and to practice.  
I had a conversation recently that reminded me about a post I wrote a few years ago about the 10 commandments, and how I was confused as to why so many Christians believe that they are mandatory for Christians but the other laws in the Hebrew Scriptures are not.  We place so much importance upon them but we don’t talk as much about the two commandments that Jesus actually says summarize all the others.  

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,  and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.   “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”   He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’   This is the greatest and first commandment.   And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  –Matthew 22:34-40  

Plus, Jesus also gave a new commandment:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35

Love.  Love.  Love.  It’s a word we toss around so carelessly.  I love my husband.  I love my children.  I love coffee.  I love chocolate.  Our English definition of love is partly to blame, because we only have that one word we use, whereas in Greek (which is the language of the New Testament), there are 4 different words (eros–sexual love, philia–brotherly love, agape–self-giving love, I had the 4th one and lost it, sorry). 
The commandment in Matthew, where Jesus sums up the law and the prophets, comes from two places in the Hebrew scriptures.  Loving God comes from Deuteronomy 6:5, which says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  This is part of what is known as the shema.  In this part of Deuteronomy, the author is explaining that the law that was given is meant to bring life to the people (days may be long, v 2) as they enter this new land.  But the law is not just an arbitrary bunch of rules, the law here is combined with loving God.  And in the New Testament, when Jesus creates a new people, from two to one in him, the law is love.  
In a recent post, Frank Viola wrote that “People are generally wired to lead with one part of their soul. Some are mostly heady/intellectual (mind), others are mostly emotive/feelers (emotions), and others tend toward being mostly volitional/doers (will).”  While that was about leading, I think that we also tend to pick one of the ways in which we are to love God and elevate it above the others, instead of having them work together.
But what does it mean to love God with our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and how to they fit with each other?  That’s what we’ll explore in this series.  

2 thoughts on “The Greatest Commandments

  1. I love how Jesus encourages us to see the Decalogue through a new set of lenses. The first lens, love God, covers the first 4 commandments. The second lens covers the last six. But there is a new color in the lens. The Decalogue was all about "do not". The new color is "do". Instead of a prohibition against coveting, give generously to your neighbor such that there is no longer any want of your stuff. In place of a law against adultery, love your neighbor in a way that strengthens their marriage, not weakens it. And so forth.And, oh BTW, the other Greek word is "storge."

  2. Ah, that was it! I'd asked on Twitter and someone told me, but I'd apparently not made a note of it anywhere, and by the time I went to use it, there was no way I was going to search back through all the tweets to find it.

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