“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 22:36-40, NRSV)
Dear friends in Christ,
Since Jesus said these two commandments are the greatest and that all the law and prophets hang on these, I choose to take him at his word. For me, that means using these two commandments as the framework for everything else. That does not mean that I am always successful, but I try to keep these at the center of decision-making and behavior choices. This causes me to wonder what the world might look like if everyone began with these two commandments and worked from there.
My first inclination is to cite examples of how race relations might be different, or how we might have avoided many wars and international conflicts. I could wonder about congressional gridlock and media bias. There are lots of global issues that would surely be different if God was our first love, followed by everyone else. But, those seem to be the “easy targets” and may be better suited to a theological textbook on human behavior or diplomacy. I also think that Jesus has something more personal and attainable in mind here.
I want you to take a few moments to imagine how your life and the lives of those with whom you interact might be different if these two commandments were always at the forefront of your mind.
I wonder, for example, if love for others might cause us to drive less aggressively and be more patient with drivers who may not be as competent as we would like. It might make it possible for us to consider that the clerk, or waiter, or neighbor is not rude; they are simply having a bad day or facing a crisis. It might cause you to reach out to that person with compassion and make their bad day a little better.
Love for God and people might lead you to forego a new television this year so you can increase your contribution to the church or some other charitable cause. That is just one example of how these two commands should govern our decision-making process. Buy this or give to that? Another new gadget or extra food for Restore Hope?
I realize that you have heard all this before; you may even be tired of hearing it. The thing is that Jesus said this was the most important thing for us to do: love God and love others. If it’s that important, then we should be happy to be reminded.
What I hope we can begin to see that, if we will practice this kind of love in the little things – like driving friendly and not being rude, then maybe we can begin to make a real difference in the global issues. We need to practice what we preach and show the rest of the world what living with the love of God looks like. It is a contagious way of life. Instead of Democrats fighting with Republicans, we might see both sides working together to find solutions to common problems. This same sort of cooperation could infect our personal relationship, business relationships, and international diplomacy. I believe that, when you allow love of God and of others to order your life, then you no longer see things in terms of “what’s best for me”. Choices become easier because they are less selfish.
In 1967, The Beatles released “All You Need is Love,” which became a cultural anthem of the times. The song’s lyrics carry a simple message that love is the answer to many of society’s problems. Now, The Beatles are certainly not religious scholars, but they were on to something when it came to encouraging people to get along with each other. I don’t think Jesus would dislike much of their music.
I think the point is that our culture has become very self-centered and divided along ideological lines. We often make decisions based on what we want or need with little thought to the impact our choices may have on another person. It’s as if we are living in a bubble where we don’t think our decisions affect others or we just don’t care anymore. That attitude is exactly opposite of the two greatest commandments from Jesus.
Trying to love,