The Great Commandments

 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And 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 great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

Whenever I start thinking about the Law my mind first goes to Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Moses and the desert.  I think to myself, “How is a person supposed to do all that stuff, especially today?”  The short answer is, I’m not.  First of all, I am what the Bible refers to as a gentile.  The simple definition of gentile is some one who, like me, is not a Jew.

I could say (rightly) that being a gentile means that I am not bound by the Law.  That provides me with a sense of freedom.  On the other hand I would be wrong to consider this a freedom to do what I want.  It is in reality a freedom to do what God wants. The best analogy I can come up with comes from my classroom.  Every year we have to establish the rules of the classroom.  One of the things I do is to hold up a school rule book and ask the class if we should read the whole thing.  No one EVER wants to do that.  So, I bring up two simple rules that every one can follow:

  1.  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
  2.  Be nice.

All the rules in the school manual fall in those two categories.  Simple, to the point, and followable.  Guess how many discipline issues I generally have in a given year. The funny thing is, there’s no wiggle room.  There’s no way for a student to say, “That’s not against the rules!”  There are no rules. OK, there are two, but you get what I mean.  The kids know whether what they are saying or doing is nice or hurtful and so does everyone else in the room.  The students end up policing themselves and all I have to do is become the final arbiter when needed.  That is the third rule, I’m the boss.

The righteous shall live by faith

Faith

The Law is like that student/school handbook.  But the Law is contained in a number of books and takes great effort and concentration to follow.  Enter Jesus who sums things up so beautifully.  “Love God  with all you are,” (paraphrase) “and your neighbor as yourself.”  And then He ends with the clincher, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

When I said that Jesus “sums things up…” I didn’t mean that He summarizes the Law.  I meant that He “cuts to the chase” of God’s Will. These two commandments are the gist of all the Law and the Prophets.  Everything in them is designed to focus a person’s attention either upon God or upon other people.  Simply read the Ten Commandments that started it all and you’ll see what I mean.  Each is about God or others.  Then Jesus removes the wiggle room.  Following God isn’t really about the particulars as much as focusing one’s self totally upon God.  And not for one’s self, but for others.  It’s that simple.  Which isn’t the same as saying that it’s easy.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Questions?  Comments?  Write them below.

God Bless,

Christopher

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10 thoughts on “The Great Commandments

  1. Hi Christopher,

    I have to admit that as a Messianic believer I’m often in a lot of pain when it comes to the law, I don’t believe that we should strive to obey the law in our flesh, I think there is definitely death & inherent curse in that direction but neither do I believe these laws are null and void and so we can live as we please. As Yeshua said narrow is the gate that leads to salvation, and more and more I feel that this refers to a divinely inspired.balance of faith and works. The word law brings fear to even the most strong hearted and this is a shame, I think this why christians prefer to separate themselves from believing jews and vice versa, but actually Jew and Gentile no longer exist in Messiah, we are one in Him, grafted into Israel, we are no longer on the outside goy but part of the holy congregation of saints by faith.

    How do I live out my faith? By works definitely, fear and trembling with a desire to keep my eyes focussed on the Lord. Am I torah observant? No. Am i Holy spirit observant? It is my earnest desire to be obedient to His voice.

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    • Vessel,

      I think that is an excellent response and quite Biblical. I think that not following the Law makes one more responsible to God rather than less. Since there is no rule book to follow, one needs to develop one’s relatioshhip with Jesus in order to follow His will. Then we realize that anything one does that does not honor/love God and honor/love our neighbor is wrong. Life itself becomes worship and one must be extremely careful because whatever one does that does not proceed from faith (i.e. one’s relationship with Jesus) is a sin, whether it’s “Lawful” or not.

      I wish I could say I’m there, but I’m preaching to myself at least as much as I am to anyone else.

      God Bless,

      Christopher

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  2. That is the thing, Christopher. Simple, for the intellect,
    makes it easier to focus; makes it easier to remember.
    Maintaining that focus all day long – is complicated.

    I ran into a list of 100 sins. Automatically, this makes
    being a Christian sound impossible. The focal point
    starts in a negative tone, and worsens as you read
    down the list. Talk about a guilt trip. ‘Tis humbling,
    but it’s also frustrating as all get out. Rules…blah.

    Rule 101: Thou shalt not exceed the speed of light.
    Now, that’s the kind of rule I’d love to see broken. 🙂 UT

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    • Also, what do we want to follow, a list of rules, or God? In our focusing on following God alone, we will make mistakes, of course. But that’s when we ask for frogiveness and move on, even amidst the consequences, God is with us.

      Christopher

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  3. Pingback: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind « bummyla

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