Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 6, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

The greatest commandment

By Rev. Martin Schoenfeld, St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake

A Pharisee came up to Jesus and asked Him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

At St. James Lutheran Church, we have been considering a sermon series recently entitled “Ancient Guidelines For Modern Living,” based upon the 10 commandments. As we consider this series and as we all hear about the 10 commandments in the news from time to time, this may be a good question for us, as well.

Out of the 10 commandments, which is the most important? In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus answered: “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 prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When Jesus answered this question, what He was doing was summarizing all 10 of the commandments. Commandments one to three deal with our relationship with God and are summarized by loving God. Commandments four through 10 deal with the relationships we have with one another, and are summarized by loving our neighbor.

The summery of all 10 of the commandments then is love – love toward God and love toward our neighbor.

First, and most importantly, is our love toward God. We may love ourselves, other people, and the things of the world. Sometimes, we become very attached to these things.

Our old sinful nature will tempt us to love the things of the world or even other people more than the Lord God. When we do so, we sin against God. We break this first and most important commandment of the Lord.

God, however, is very different from us. In I John 4: 10-11, the Bible says: “This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

God has loved you so much that He has sent His one and only Son into this world to obey all the commandments in your place and fulfill all righteousness for you.

God has loved you by suffering and dying upon the cross for your sins and by rising from the dead for you. God has done all of this so that you may bask in His love for all eternity in heavenly glory through faith in Him.

Since God has first loved you so richly, now you may strive to keep this most important commandment. Now, you may love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind.

Now, you may love God more than anything or anyone else in the world

Now, you may keep God as the number one priority in your life as you organize your schedules, as you budget your money, and as you serve His church and one another.

Secondly, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Certainly, there is not a single one of us who has perfectly loved others as we have loved ourselves. We have been selfish, mean, arrogant, unkind, disrespectful, gossips, and unforgiving. We have not loved other people to the extent God commands.

Jesus, on the other hand, has perfectly loved us. When we were lost in our sin, He came to deliver us and grant to us new life. Jesus loved us more than He loved Himself, for He was even willing to suffer and die upon the cross for our sin.

Jesus has loved you more than Himself so that you may be in heaven for eternity. Therefore, since Jesus has first loved you so richly, now you may go forth and love others in the ways God directs you in commandments four through 10.

When Jesus calls you to love your neighbor as yourself, He does not just mean the person living next to you, but He means all people. Because Jesus has first loved you, now you may love all people in these ways.

Which is the greatest commandment? The answer is love – love toward God and love toward your neighbor. When you think of the 10 commandments, think of them in these two simple terms and you will have guidance for modern living.

Since God has first loved you so richly, now go forth and love God and one another just as our Lord desires.


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