This is The Great Commandment passage of the Bible, as told in Mark 12:28-34:
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’No other commandment is greater than these.”
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
You know what I love about this passage? Its final sentence.
How mind-bogglingly perfect. Because (with the elegant understatement that marks the Bible as the supreme work of Western literature) it captures the full impact made upon those who were actually present when Jesus himself declared the ultimate law of God.
The teachers of religious law shut up! Have you ever tried to get a teacher of religious law to stop talking? You couldn’t do it with morphine, rope, and a roll of duct tape. Why Jesus doesn’t get more credit for this miracle, I have no idea.
But Jesus, being Jesus, did the impossible: he clammed up the Sadducees and Pharissees (Matthew 22: 34-40). And the fact that we’re told that he did—that that detail made it all the way through history to our little eyeballs—should tell us all we need to know about how we, too, are supposed to react to the Great Commandment.
We, like they, should be moved by it to silence.
It calls for no reply. No rejoinder. No comeback. No modifying, arguing, explicating, elucidating, clarifying, or pontificating.
No. Questions. Asked.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Simple, simple, so profoundly challenging about none of us do it.
You do it, though. If you have the nerve to call yourself a follower of Christ, then have the moxie to obey what Jesus unequivocally proclaimed the most important commandment of all.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
And then go, Christian. Go.