People love splitting hairs. We often want to get very specific about what we actually “have” to do to don’t end up doing too much. In Exodus 20, we read the account of Moses getting The Ten Commandments from God. Later, in Matthew 5-7, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus goes into a little more detail about the spirit of the law. And, by the time we get to Matthew 22, when a lawyer stands to ask Jesus about which is the most important law to follow, we know we are about to get an earful.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
How He Answers
Jesus breaks down the entire Christian faith in two commandments combining both the law and grace. He answers the legalistic question by stating the first commandment – Thou shalt have no other Gods before me – but adds to it by saying that simply not having any other Gods is not enough. We must LOVE God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our intellect. Love is the key here. We must love Him above all else. This would take care of all the laws because our love for God would prompt us to desire to follow His laws and keep His commands. But then He adds something.
What He Adds
In the same way that we sometimes don’t know what to ask for or what exactly we want, but God does. His extended answer to this question is more in line with God’s understanding that we don’t always ask the right questions or want what is best for ourselves. So Jesus adds that the second most command is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The interesting part of this statement is that Love your neighbor is not one of the ten commandments. However, if you were to sum up the ten commandments into only two – Loving God above all else takes care of the first four, and loving your neighbor takes care of the remaining six. He finishes by explaining that our entire religion hangs on loving God above all else and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
What He Didn’t Say
The two ideas thing that struck me most were the simplicity of the gospel and that there were so many things that we, as Christians, have made into hills that we will die on – that simply aren’t included. The remaining ten commandments instruct us to refrain from making idols & using the Lord’s name in vain; it requires us to keep that Sabbath & honor our parents; and instructs us not to lie, cheat, steal, murder, or covet. He tells us nothing about only loving people who believe what we believe. There is no line drawn in the sand about loving only those like us or going to the same church. In fact, as Jesus explains later when asked by another “hair splitter,” Who is our neighbor? Jesus makes it clear that EVERYONE is our neighbor.
So if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by all of the things you need to do to be holy, just remember, the list is not endless – it’s just two. Love God & Love your neighbor. Christ gave us the first Cliff’s Notes on our Faith two thousand years ago. Love God and Love your neighbor, and you’ll be on the right path. I think I can do that, and if I can’t, God will help me.