One day, a lawyer asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?”
Now if you were raised in a church like mine, you may have answered with one of the 10 Commandments. After all, that’s what we memorize. That, for some reason, is seen as the ultimate standard within Christian Sunday School. It’s what we’re taught and it’s what we get quizzed over time and time again.
Jesus didn’t answer the way we might have. He didn’t answer with one of the 10 Commandments. No one would have expected Him too. You see, the greatest commandment would have been found in the Shema. The Shema is a command from God found in Deuteronomy 6. Jesus, like every Jewish boy of his day, would have prayed the Shema multiple times every day.
Jesus answers the lawyer from that commandment. He says that the Greatest Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
That was the right answer. That was the one answer that no Jew could dispute. That’s it. He passed their test.
Only, He didn’t stop there. Jesus was radical. He was revolutionary. He showed how the experts in the law had misinterpreted the Scriptures and how they missed the point.
The Second Greatest Commandment
Jesus went on to say, “and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This was ground breaking. This was the revolutionary part. Everyone new that you needed to love God. Love your neighbor, that’s a different story.
What was truly revolutionary is that Jesus didn’t say that loving your neighbor comes in second place to loving God . This isn’t the second most important commandment. When Jesus said “the second is like it,” what He actually means here is that it’s just as important as the first. It’s equal to it. Loving your neighbor is just as important as loving God.
In the next session we’ll get into who your neighbor is, but for now it’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t say what kind of neighbor to love. He doesn’t say to love your neighbor if they’re a good Jew. He doesn’t say to love your neighbor if they’re a good person, if they’re the same age as you, if they’re the same race as you, if they’re the same gender as you, if they voted the same way you did, if they’re a legal citizen. He doesn’t say any of that at all. He leaves it open. In fact, he only clarifies this later when someone asks. It’s clear that for Jesus we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, no matter who they are.
As You Love Yourself
What does it mean to love someone as yourself? That’s really pretty easy to understand, but not as easy to live. What things do you want for yourself? One of those things is safety. You want you and your family to be able to go to sleep every night and not worry about being hurt or killed or arrested.
Another one is provision. You want enough for you and your family. You want enough clothes in the winter. You want enough food to eat. You want some type of reasonable shelter.
One more thing is space. We all want some physical, mental and emotional space. Some time to relax, recoup, regroup. Sometimes you need to just shut a door behind you for a few moments of quiet and calm.
There are many more things that you want for yourself. You want good things for yourself. You love you. Even when you’re depressed, you still really love you deep down. So that’s how you’re supposed to love your neighbor. You’re supposed to be concerned with their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. You’re supposed to care about them and what happens to them. You’re supposed to be involved in their lives in a positive way.
Now I want you to ask yourself two questions.
First, am I loving God with everything I have? All of my mind, my soul and my physical self (strength)?
Second, am I loving my neighbor as myself? Am I concerned with their spiritual, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing like I am concerned with my own?
If your answer is no to any part of those questions then you’re not living out what Jesus calls the Greatest Commandment. Many of us go to church and try so hard to live right by God’s standards and to love Him the best that we can. Somehow we miss the fact that loving our neighbor is equally important.
Unfortunately today is a perfect example. Today we have so many people, even Christians, who are doing anything but loving their neighbor. Too many of us are concerned with being right, not showing love. Too many of our first impulse to be full of rage and anger towards “the other side” that we can’t possibly be loving our neighbors on that side.
If you’re a Christian or not, you need to be finding ways to show love to one another. If you’re not a Christian I believe that you should be doing the same. Christ commands it. Our survival and well being requires it.
Our energy and our efforts are being spent the wrong ways. We need to spend our energy on finding ways to heal not to hurt, to mend not to mangle, to dream not divide.
As we continue this study together pray with me. Pray that the Lord of restoration and reconciliation would shine the light in your own heart and mind. Pray that He would illuminate the areas where you need to change. The attitudes, mindsets and behaviors that you need to change before you can begin anything else. Pray that God would continue to speak to you and through you, speak to others.
I will be praying for myself in the same way. I will also be praying for you as we grow more like Christ together.