Jesus said and taught a lot of things. The meaning of some of what he said is easy enough for us to grasp (“A man reaps what he sows”); some of what he said strikes us as pretty cryptic (“The Son of God has no place to lay his head”); some of it is downright abstruse (“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”). And then we have this:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard [Jesus and some of his critics] debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
So there is Jesus flat-out telling us that this is the most important thing he ever has said or will say.
Seems like a good thing to pay attention to, no?
If Jesus says that something is the greatest commandment of all, then we can be certain that we have found ground upon which we can stand for the rest of our life, without once having to wonder whether or not we’re in the right place.
And what Jesus says at Mark 12: 28-31 is easy to understand. The Great Commandment is so simple. Yet it’s so deep and rich it’s like a mine from which we can forever extract pure gold.
The Great Commandment (obviously) consists of two parts: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Pfftt. Like those are so hard to do, right? You could probably do those while sitting right there in your chair!
Let’s all fulfill the Great Commandment, right now! Let’s all close our eyes, and love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul.
Feel your love for God.
Feel your love of your neighbor. Feel yourself feeling how your neighbor isn’t really such a bad guy at all. Feel yourself forgetting all about how your neighbor constantly plays his stereo at concert-decibel levels, or how he seems convinced that his leaf blower endows him with a special, divine right to wake up everyone in the neighborhood at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning as he blows the debris from his yard into everybody else’s. Feel yourself forgetting how your neighbor flicks his cigarette butts over his fence, or how he won’t even try to keep his dog from constantly barking.
Don’t you just hate your stupid, lazy, inconsiderate #%@!! jerk of a neighbor?!?!!!
Loving God is easy—but that guy! Who could love that guy?
Or the guy in the pick-up truck who cut you off on the freeway yesterday.Or the lazy, manipulative coworker who keeps trying to take credit for your work.
Or the boss whose imperiousness leaves him or her apparently incapable of a normal human interaction.
Or the roommate who thinks it’s cute to eat your food.
Or this person.
Or that person.
Or these people. Or those.
Thus do we begin to sense some of the more challenging aspects of the practical, everyday application of Jesus’ supreme commandment to us all.
Having an abstract feeling of love for your fellow man is easy. But having actual love for your actual neighbors? Not so much.
That Jesus. He sure does know how to … pick his commandments.
Fundamentally, though, the Great Commandment really is pretty simple to execute. First off, you love God. But you must love God seriously—with, in fact, all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. In order to fulfill the Great Commandment, you must get alone, take some time, and really, really love God.
And when you do that (and, in fact, do do that, right now), what happens?
What happens is the part of the Great Commandment that Jesus, in his awesome wisdom, left out of the Great Commandment. And why would Jesus leave something important out of the Great Commandment? I believe it was so that we could discover for ourselves what he most intended us to—because discovering a thing for ourselves is how we really own and understand that thing.
That’s what great teachers do. They lead us up to the point of understanding—and then leave us to experience that next step, to suddenly comprehend the critical truth of the matter, for ourselves.
What Jesus didn’t say about the phenomenon of the Great Commandment is what happens when you love God with all your heart, mind, and strength.
And what happens is that you feel how much God loves you.
That’s the part he left out!
It’s not love God, and then love your neighbor. It’s love God, feel how much God loves you, and then love your neighbor.
Three steps. Not two.
We’re not designed to unconditionally love our neighbors. Our normal, everyday, quick-to-anger, reactively judgmental, habitually evaluative minds don’t work that way. But our hearts (which as a rule are overridden by our minds, especially when we’re out making our way in the big bad world ) are designed to fully process full love. But to open those channels, to get that love flowing at full capacity, we first need to tap into the One Big Love.
If you’re really going to feel peaceful, benevolent, patient, and truly loving toward people—even people as obnoxious as some of the “neighbors” in your life—then you’re going to need undiluted, pure, direct-from-the-source Divine Love.
Love; get the maximum, purest kind of love possible; love.
That’s the real deal of the Great Commandment.
In effect, the way to “do” the Great Commandment is to simply do its first part: to love God with everything you have. The next part—the miraculous part, where, filled with God’s love, you then fully love others—will naturally follow.