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 neighbour as yourself.’”
Twenty first century life is full of rules. There are literally thousands of laws in the United Kingdom telling us what we are not allowed to do, from driving to fast to murdering people, from shoplifting to fraud. Working in a school, I am only too aware of the abundance of rules; homework must be done on time, go to lunch at the correct time, don’t walk over the grass next to the classroom block. I supervise detentions on Wednesday and Thursday lunchtimes, and you would be amazed what some people are punished for!
Sometimes, to non-Christians, our faith can seem like a religion based solely on rules. Most people know the ten commandments, and lots of people are aware of the seemingly rather stranges laws of Leviticus and other Old Testament books. Christianity can seem like a whole long list of rules about things that we, as Christians are not allowed to do, and things that we are required to do. This makes Christianity seem like a very restrictive religion to many. Yet Paul tells us that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). This suggests that Christianity is actually more freeing than restricting!
Just prior to today’s verse, a Pharisee has tried to trick Jesus by asking him what the greatest commandment was. Jesus succinctly summaries the whole of the Old Testament law, and the nub of Christianity, by stating that we must firstly love God with every fibre of our being, and secondly that we should love our neighbour as ourself. Unfortunately, Matthew does not indicate the reaction of the crowd to Jesus’ answer, but I can imagine them being fairly stunned. All those rules and regulations that they thought they had to keep are summarised into just two lines!
As we being a new year and a new decade, it is perhaps worth thinking how much we adhere to this rule. Can we honestly say that we love God with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind? Is he the single most important thing in our lives? And do we really love others as much as we love ourselves – those we do not get on with as well as those that we do? Are there people at work, for example, who wind us up who we treat in a manner that does not conform to this commandment? Let’s all resolve to love God, and our neighbours, more this year.