Lenten Reader | Day 37

Two Commandments

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘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 22:34-40
Matthew chapter 22 sort of reminds me of parenting. That part when the kids are questioning everything. “Why can’t I ...? Why does our family always ...? Why do we never ...?” Sometimes parents patiently explain the whys and wherefores. But usually, eventually, it comes down to the dreaded, “Because I said so.” Or even worse, “You’ll just have to trust me.”

The Pharisees and Sadducees were verbally badgering him, and Jesus was patiently (or not) giving explanations for why this action was wrong or that thought was misguided. And finally he ends the debate by telling them that religion is not about a checklist of do’s and don’ts; it
is about relationship. Loving God and loving people.

If we reflect on Jesus’ interactions with people during his ministry, we find that his way of loving them was not a to-do list. Think about the rich young ruler, his mother when he was on the cross, the adulterous woman, people he met as he was walking, the 5000, the woman at the well, his disciples – what did he do to show he loved them? There were certainly “signs and wonders,” but usually his love looked more like stopping to pay attention, listening, providing, forgiving, having hard conversations, reserving judgement.

Like the Teachers of the Law, we often prefer to have a checklist of what we are supposed to do as Christians. That way we can feel the satisfaction of ticking the boxes, then move on. But following Jesus is much more than that – it is all the messiness and time-taking and sacrifice, and love and peace and trust. We experience it with God first so we will know how to share it with our neighbors.

Toward the end of his life, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote a whole chapter on how this works, and it’s worth a read (I John 4). Learning to love well is important; according to Jesus, THE most important thing.

Theresa Manchester