December 18

Questions with Strange Answers #14

Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Mark 12:28-31 Then one of the scribes came, and…asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The Sadducees had just asked Jesus what they hoped would be what we today call a “gotcha” question, one that they thought would be sure to trip up Jesus and show how ridiculous they considered the idea of resurrection. After they posed the question, Jesus put them in their place Biblically, but not first without letting them know how very wrong they were from the start of their thinking process: “Is this not the season you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” These are strong words of rebuke, and we should take them as our own challenge to make sure that we submit ourselves to the continuous study—and proper understanding—of his Word.

Then a scribe, noticing the dispute and noticing that Jesus “had answered them well,” asked a timeless question: “Which is the greatest commandment of all?” How surprised he must have been when Jesus answered with two commandments, and not one.

Jesus of course first pointed to loving the Lord with everything we have. This is a logical answer, and most listeners of the time would have expected Him to stop there. But Jesus then immediately lists the second—loving your neighbor as yourself—calling it “like” the first. Clearly Jesus considers the two inextricably linked.

What God has joined together here, the enemy loves to put asunder. How many times have you heard, “I love God; it’s His people I can’t stand” or a version of the same? You can’t really do the first unless you’re also loving His people. After all, can you love someone and hate his body? Can you love someone and hate his bride? If you can, something is terribly wrong somewhere. And since there is nothing wrong with Jesus in this obvious spiritual metaphor, if there is a lack of love of His people, there is something that needs to be fixed (healed, repented of, etc.) in us.

Jesus has linked these two, as He sees no real difference in the reality of them. We can make a division in our minds, but we must, must ask ourselves: If Jesus doesn’t make this division, how can I? If the one great commandment is a two-parter, then our real love for God is manifested in how much we love Him and how much we love our neighbors as ourselves. (See James 2:8 and his reference to “the royal law.”)

Prayer: Father, my mind divides these two commandments that Jesus called one. Help me to see all the connections here that I’ve been missing. I bow to what You say is one, and ask for eyes to see.


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