Most Important Command

What would you consider to be the most important commandment? In light of recent events, I might put forth “do not bear false witness” as so much of what we do are are motivated to do comes from truth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been blatantly lied to. It makes me sick. Just tell the truth and get it over with.

However, you may have a different experience than mine, and see “do not murder” as the most important, or maybe, “do not steal”. I think our experiences tend to color our perception of God’s laws a bit more when we’ve been the victim of a particular sin. If you’ve suffered loss of life because of someone else’s wrongdoing, or you’ve suffered loss of property or promotion because someone else stole it from you.

This passage is Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ question, “What is the most important commandment in the Law?” It was probably a test, and whatever answer He chose, they likely assumed it would be one of the Ten Commandments, and their relative importance was hotly debated. Knowing which of those He chose would give them grounds to argue His authority.

But like always, Jesus outwits them, choosing not one of the Ten Commandments, but from the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), which was the capstone for reiterating the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. Jesus makes it very clear that He knows the commandments better than they do. He was there when they were written. He is the Word of God, so He is the living embodiment of the words of God. In short, He knows the Law.

But the second Law, doesn’t come from Deuteronomy, but from Leviticus 19:18. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” It’s not likely one the Pharisees would have picked for their list of most important commandments, as it seems is some ways tacked on, an afterthought, and applicable in this particular incidence. But Jesus plucks out of relative obscurity, as if to say, “If you really knew the Law, you would realize how foundational this is to the whole.” And in their attempt to trick Him, they were violating both the first and second greatest commandments. They didn’t ask Him the question to see His succeed, but to fail. That is not love, either for God, or for their neighbor.

Dear God, I know every day I try Your patience. Every day I do things that make you shake your head and occasionally do a facepalm. Thank You for being so patient with me. Thank You for still loving me when I’ve lost that loving feeling, and turn inward to my own selfish lusts. I pray for Your forgiveness and grace each and every day, and pray that today I will do better. Thank You for everything Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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