How to Apply the Greatest Commandments

How to Apply the Greatest Commandments July 15, 2015

Applying the greatest commandments

If your appeal to prioritizing love for God over love for neighbor would have justified the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan not stopping to help the robbery victim by the side of the road, then you are not applying what Jesus said were the greatest commandments in the way Jesus taught us to apply them.

This seems to me the best way to respond to what a commenter wrote here recently, claiming that love for God trumps love for other human beings, and using it to justify his anti-gay stance.

The priest in Jesus’ story, following the clear command of Scripture to avoid contracting corpse impurity, could have justified giving the apparent corpse on the side of the Jericho road a wide berth, using the same argument that conservative anti-gay pseudochristians today do.

If your approach to the Bible – and to other human beings – aligns you with those whom Jesus criticized, over against Jesus himself and his example and teaching, shouldn’t that convince you that your view is profoundly unchristian?


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  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Scripture makes it clear that keeping the second greatest commandment is a prerequisite for keeping the first.

    1st John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

  • Paul E.

    One could argue love for God and neighbor are the same or at least substantially similar, citing the parable of the sheep and goats.

    • Cynthia Brown Christ

      The only way we can love god when we are not bound by the law – is by loving our neighbor!!!

  • Very good, James.

  • Matthew 25:31-46 seems to say that how we love other people is the measure of how we love Jesus:

    “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

    So the “love of God trumps love of man” argument fails easily.

    Of course, I find it annoying that one even has to make such an argument. I am always concerned about how we treat our fellow humans today. I could care less about our perceived “love” for some long dead 1st century rabbi.

    This verse:

    “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

    is a fundamental basis for a morality of love and empathy; and Jesus is only one soure for the idea.

    But this verse:

    “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

    is meaningless by comparison.

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      with respect, beau what makes you think Jesus is dead?

      • Well, I have a neighbor two doors down named Jesus. He’s alive, as are, I’m sure, lots of other Jesuses in the world. But there’s no reason to believe that a Jesus who lived 2000 years ago is still alive.

        • louismoreaugottschalk

          perhaps there’s no reason for you to believe that…?

          • Michael Wilson

            What does being alive mean to you?

          • Oh, the usual: brain activity, heart pumping – it’s best if one is conscious as well.

            Just noticed that you didn’t address that question to me! You’re right louismoreaugottschalk has more to explain …

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            …as in ‘you got some splainin to do Lucy’ (louee)!

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            short answer; being alive to me is being present for my life emotionally, spiritually
            physically without the aid of drugs or alcohol or religiosity. that’s a pretty interesting question you’re asking me! thanks for the opportunity to answer it. how about you?

          • Ian

            Can you say more about how you experience Jesus physically present? I’m assuming you don’t mean ‘physical’ in a metaphoric sense (I can *feel* his presence, but I couldn’t take a photo, or a measurement, or weight it, or any such thing I could do with anything else physically present). I’m assuming you actually mean physical in the sense of physics.

            Because ‘being alive to me is being present for my life emotionally, spiritually, and metaphorically physically’ sounds a lot less of a definition of ‘alive’ you’d find many takers for. It sounds like something that one could say of Shakespeare or the Sandman.

            I assumed Beau was using the definition of ‘alive’ and ‘dead’ that’s pretty typical of intro to biology classes.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            I can tell you that Jesus physically present to me feels like a loving mother. at different times of the day I feel him present more than others. when I’m on the bus talking to people, when I’m on the street talking to people. I feel him specially present now with this answer I’m giving you.

          • Michael Wilson

            So your feeing, material as it is, a fucuation in brain chemicals, is the physical presence of Jesus?

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            a function of brain chemicals? is that what you mean? dunno where you get that. sounds to me like you’re at some kind of bargaining stage with the Lord. is he real
            Michael? is he alive?
            or is it some wonky brain chemicals. lemme ask you some questions now. how are you fixed for a mate?

          • Michael Wilson

            Physical presences are present in material. You say you feel something, the registering of feeling is in the brain, a mass of chemicals.

            Jesus of Nazareth is clinically dead. He would be so even if rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, unless heaven is a location in space time that us material beings can live in, eat, breath, crap, etc. If he transcended flesh then we vould say he is alive, like the computer programs in the Matrix, or the robot transformers, which is something we haven’t really had to address here on earth. I think though that a more important gorm of bring alive is the metaphoric, in which Jesus’s followers identify as his body. A mystical Jesus’s, not a flesh and blood 2000 year old man.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            who loves you Michael?

          • Ian

            Right, so metaphorically physical, as I suspected. You don’t ‘feel’ physical things by associating them with family members. You see, touch, smell, taste, or hear their physical properties.

            I’m not complaining, I just wanted to be clear that you mean ‘physical’ in a very non-physical way.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            I think there’s more ways to feel the presence of someone or something. see,
            touch, taste, smell, hear. all good! but Ian, is Louie Armstrong says; ‘there’s some people they don’t know and you can’t tell them.’ you may be one of those people.

          • Ian

            Always lovely to get a ‘you’re thick’ type response. Does your claims a world of credit to say ‘there’s some people who don’t know and you can’t tell them’ in response to disagreement.

            We can all play that game, right. I could insist that you’re wilfully ignorant of the truth. That, no matter how many times you’re presented with reality, you’ll refuse to leave your myths behind. I could, and many atheists probably would, but it is a pointless and juvenile way to discuss something. It’s another form of ‘you’ll see I’m right when the vindication comes’.

            I think there’s more ways to feel the presence of someone or something.

            I agree, but that isn’t physical. Unless you want to define the word ‘physical’ to mean ‘non-physical’. If something is physically present, then — by the normal use of the word physical — we don’t usually mean what you’re saying. If I say “do you physically have my money?” and you say “I sense your money emotionally”, we’d rightly conclude you are being evasive, or you’re slightly deranged.

            So you emotionally, spiritually sense Jesus is alive. Fine. But not physically, not for the consensus meaning of what physical means.

            Can you see that distinction? Note I’m not trying to diminish your experience, I’m just saying that ‘physical’ as a word is very misleading when you’re talking about non-physical senses.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            so alrighty then! you’re entitled to get all the answer you’re going to get from me. I’m
            not going to argue with you. as far as I’m concerned you can go and get your own experience with the Lord. or NOT.

          • Ian

            I’m not going to argue with you.

            Nor respond to any of my points, nor even respond in a way that suggests you read them, apparently.

            as far as I’m concerned you can go and get your own experience with the Lord

            Though interestingly you’ve not asked, and I’ve not shared what my experience with the Lord is. So I can’t help but conclude this is a form of ‘f*** off’, but with a spiritual rather than a sexual imperative.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            I’m sorry I just don’t play by the ‘responding to your points’ rules. take it easy buddy!

            just getting back to this after a short interruption. have you had an encounter with the Lord?

          • Michael Wilson

            How is jesus alive?

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            yeah okay! now I get it. jesus is alive you mean, how is Jesus alive? short answer I don’t know. I was just in some bad trouble 40 years ago and somebody who knew him reach out to me, was friends with me, told me about how their relationship is working out. over a period of the
            year, till I fell completely apart I couldn’t accept what this person is telling me. when I did hit bottom that time I started asking
            thin air, to reveal himself. I got an answer. I’m still getting answers.

          • Ian

            Aside from Jesus, what other deceased person could you refer to as alive without acknowledging the metaphoric sense of ‘alive’ without people misunderstanding you.

            A widow who claims their dead husband is still alive, because his presence remains with her, we’d worry, if she didn’t make it clear that she thought of his being alive as duly metaphoric. “I know he’s not really here, but he feels like he’s still alive when I watch the home movies, or read his blog…”

            The problem I have with the ‘what do you mean by ‘alive’?” type response is it is entirely too glib and special-pleading. You know, of course, exactly what is meant by ‘alive’ in regards to people. But because it is a confessional point to declare Jesus is alive, it becomes imperative to form a vague enough quasi-definition of alive to accommodate him (without regard for any other figures who might also be made ‘alive’ suddenly by your definition, or whether the definition would thus be rendered confusing).

            It is cynical, because, if it weren’t for Jesus, that definition wouldn’t occur to you to defend, I’d wager. You could argue that “It’s not cynical, that’s just what I think being alive is” – which is rather convenient: that you’d just happen to select a word to use that allows you to retain continuity with the historic doctrine of resurrection.

          • Michael Wilson

            Ian, first I don’t really know what alive is. If some one were teleported ala star trek would the teleported msn, ripped to atoms be dead snd what stands before me a replica? Intelligent machines? I’m not sure.

            Second to say the widows husband is not really alive denies her feelings. I saw an aboriginal woman talk about her mother and father living at a sacred site. She knows their bodies are dead but it is quite real to her that the sacred site is the home, in its dreamtime expression, of her ancestors. They are there and the sacred site is effectively her parents as their bodies once were.

            The Catholics readily admit that the host is from all physical standpoints common bread, but spiritually it is Christ flesh. It is insulting to them to say, so it’s really just bread, because for them the spiritual is what’s really real, the scientific is a shadow.

          • Ian

            Second to say the widows husband is not really alive denies her feelings

            Not really. One can allow her to use ‘alive’ metaphorically to mean ‘still important and still in my thoughts even though he’s gone’. That’s fine. But if the woman started to genuinely insist he was alive, non-metaphorically, then she’d be rightly referred for psychiatric help.

            We can use the word ‘alive’ in the metaphorical sense. I just think if we abandon the idea that it is being used metaphorically, then it just means we need another word for what alive used to mean in a non-metaphoric sense.

            On what basis do we or should we conclude that any statement of the form ‘x is alive’ could be false, if ‘alive’ were metaphorical in that sense? ‘my pet rock is alive’ – maybe. ‘my pet rock is made of unicorns’ – well, if I believe it to be true.

            I’m not talking about the definition of words here. We could just decide that ‘made of x’ means something such that rocks can be made of unicorns. But that doesn’t do any actual work: we’d still need a way of talking about what things were made of that distinguishes actual composition from this new ‘metaphoric’ sense.

            Similarly with alive. The doctrinal confession of Jesus’s aliveness (when Jesus isn’t, in fact, alive, in the non-sectarian consensus sense of a living person) brings you to change the use of the word. It is used of Jesus by confession, not by rational deduction.

            Despite you saying that you’ve no idea what being alive means, I suspect you’re deliberately making things look tougher than they are. You function perfectly well with the word in other contexts, and I don’t think you doubted what Beau meant by the word. It was a glib response.

          • Michael Wilson

            I think we don’t have a problem distinguishing between those alive in spirit vs those that are alive bodily. I know what beau means, I was asking Louis Moreau. Alive has different meanings depending what we are talking about. People often refer to gods and other spirirs as alive inspire of their not having flesh bodies.

          • No reason to believe what? That my neighbor is alive; no I have reason, he walked past my house yesterday and we discussed the weather.

            I know that Christians, generally, think of Jesus as alive, but what they actually mean by that varies widely. Loving the Jesus who lives two doors down has meaning and consequence.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            I think unless you are a marginalized person in need of everything, have hit bottom, you probably don’t need to know Jesus is alive & there to help you. as in Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Suzanne.’
            ‘only drounding men hear him’. more more, beau, I think that God is the God of the marginalized. he was marginalized himself, had nowhere to lay down his head. I consider myself a marginalized person. I went kicking and screaming into belief in Jesus. it was only when I had no other options that I looked into it and took his promises seriously. now we’re Pals!

          • Oh, I’ve known many people who’ve “hit rock bottom”, but never experienced an encounter with the biblical Jesus. I have no problem with those who consider him a Pal, though. So long as their version of Jesus doesn’t lead them to treat real people in unloving ways.

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            that’s fair and reasonable. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all encounter type w Jesus. he hangs out with everyone on their terms I think. I’m by no means fair &
            loving everybody. you should hear me take on the trolls around here give them hell!

          • As far as I’m concerned, you can hang out with the Ghost of Christmas Past, so long as love wins. And I think it is winning – marriage equality is a huge step in the right direction!

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            kin you diggit!?

          • Am I thrilled about marriage equality? Absolutely!

          • louismoreaugottschalk

            yeah I just can’t figure out why it took so long!
            marginal is marginal. dominant is dominant.
            seems that’s the way the world swings… till now!

            the hour that our ship comes in~BOB DYLAN

          • Oh it’s pretty obvious why it took so long – religious taboo! Even now, everyone complaining about it are pointing to their Bible (or Koran) interpretations.

          • arcseconds

            I think just plain homophobia also has a big part to play, and part of that is a challenge to traditional gender roles and traditional notions of masculinity. The fear of being queer among red-blooded males isn’t a fear of breaking a biblical commandment, it’s the fear of being feminine.

            There’s also the traditional nuclear family that’s at stake here, obviously closely involved with gender roles. A lot of the objections are things like ‘where’s the father in all of this?’ you’re depriving your children of a father!’

            I think these have gone hand in hand with one another, and there’s been a bit of a marriage of convenience, as it were, between homophobia and religion.

            A comparison with divorce is instructive. It’s also been a religious taboo, and on better scriptural, ritual and theological grounds, but it’s become almost totally acceptable in all but the most religiously conservative communities much faster, with nothing like the drama over marriage equality.

            I feel plenty of people who have conveniently ignored or even shouted down religious conservatism when it came to divorce suddenly found it more congenial once gays came into the picture.

    • Michael Wilson

      Most people fail from time to time to live up to the ideal. Why should I be moral and empathic? How important is that? Some of us are saints who don’t ask these questions, but many have wrestled with the question. Of course the writer of Deuteronomy did as well when he introduced this ideal to Yahwehist scripture. Jesus’s followers understood that the reason you follow this teaching is because the other is really Jesus, whome they love and who loved them, not a stranger. The motivation for loving a loved one as one loves them selves is passionate emotion and so fulfilling the obligations of love is not a burden, their happiness makes us happy so selfless love is selfish. To want to be good to others not for their sake but to pursue a abstract goal of being “moral” is just an odd fetish, no more praiseworthy than any other sport. Further it is not just for the sake of making the person of their devotion happy that propels Jesus’s followers to love but the understanding that it is this that fulfils their ultimate purpose, doing God’s will for them. To flip the order though, to put loveing ones neighbors first, would mean that devotion to others would trump ultimate reality. If that is true then ones belief that they are doing good for all would trump the attributes of ultimate reality, namely that it is whats true. In this way one could confuse what feels good for what is. Love of a particular being could lead one to believe that evil to others is good because it makes the object of love happy. But if God is first, then we must always seek to the ultimate reality IT establishes.

      • Your argument that loving someone who loves you is easier than a loving a stranger makes sense, and that is why (for example) we take far more responsibility in caring for our own family than in caring for other families. Society has slowly (and imperfectly) grown to extend loving and compassionate behavior towards all of humanity, a reversal of the sort of tribalism more common in ancient societies such as the Hebrews depicted in the Old Testament.

        However, you say, “To want to be good to others not for their sake but to pursue a abstract goal of being “moral” is just an odd fetish, no more praiseworthy than any other sport.”

        Fine (I suppose anything we desire for it’s own sake could be reduced to an “odd fetish” by that logic), but you might just as well have said, “To want to be good to others not for their sake but to pursue an ultimate reality is just an odd fetish, no more praiseworthy than any other sport.” Your description of “ultimate reality” has no more substance than an “abstract goal of being ‘moral'”.

        Consider Euthyphro. Is love good because God commands it, or does God command love because it is good?

        • Michael Wilson

          When I say ultimate reality, I mean that which is really so, free of misperception. I don’t know what that is because I accept my senses can be fooled. If you pursue that, really it means you want what is true. If you crave what is true, revere truth, find joy in it, then perhaps we can say you love truth. You love what is real, what is the substance all springs from.

          The goal of being moral could hypothetically spring from a desire to show one could, a test. Such a moral person wouldn’t cheat if they could, but need not care if any feels good. The kindness expressed would really be all selfish, if this person were the good Samaritan, they would recue the man and see to his recovery with all due diligence, but uf after all he failed to save him , well, who cares? I’m still happy and healthy! It ultimately isn’t moral to do good but hate in your heart.

          When Jesus says the greatest commandments are love the one god above all and love your neighbor as your self, John interprets it as meaning that the two greatest are essentially one. You show you love God by loving others. Mark hints at this, since the questioner says that fulfilling these is better than sacrifice, the traditional means to demonstrate you love God.

          God’s will for a being is for it to do what nature allows it to do to achieve happiness. Why? Because that’s what beings do. God’s will is what occurs. Beings want to be happy. They recoil from pain and pursue pleasure. It isn’t to reproduce, it need not understand it can, but beings always seek happiness. If your not happy, something is wrong. If your not working to be happy your not fulfilling your God ordained purpose. To know if your really working toward your happiness, you have to know what’s real, and thus you love the really real.

          More to come, the mind is willing but the battery is weak.

          • I’m trying to imagine a person who would be moral as a hypothetical “test”, devoid of feelings. Why are you positing such a person? Do such people exist? Are they a problem to consider?

            Certainly, everyone behaves morally at times for selfish reasons. We want to flourish in society and society has a certain degree of moral expectations. But I also believe that we are moral for much more basic reasons. It brings us joy and feelings of fulfillment. Feelings, our emotional life, are vital to the human experience. We often belittle them, but they are integral to who we are, and drive much of our decision making. They begin at the level of family, but humans have extended these feelings to include ever widening communities, until now we try to include all of humanity to the extent that we are capable. We even extend these feelings to animals in a limited degree. Dogs have been a part of our extended family for millennia.

            We see such altruistic behavior in the animal kingdom: we see mammals caring for their children, dogs dying for their masters, etc., and it is not hard to imagine how such behavior can cause our genes to flourish in an evolutionary setting. Knowing that my emotions evolved does not diminish their value to me. Knowing that the sweetness of an apple is an evolved trait for spreading seeds, does not make me enjoy the taste of an apple less. So knowing that my love for my daughters is an evolved trait, does not lessen the depth of my feelings for them. I would die for them willingly, as most parents would, because, while I certainly value length of life, I am aware of the inevitability of death, and their are things that I have come to value more than long life. We humans have grown societally to value others in ways that rise above familial bonds. I’m fairly certain that I would die for the children in my neighborhood if the need arose, because I value their potential for life. You can even call this selfish behavior, because such values are derived from deep-seated feelings. The question of what is truly selfish or selfless in our behavior can be quite circular in this way.

            Now reason does come into play in our value systems; we can reason that other humans have the same emotional needs, potentials, desires that we have. We can work rationally to provide equal opportunities for flourishing to as many people as possible, and such efforts satisfy not only our own selfish need to flourish, but the emotional fulfillment that we achieve in seeing the fulfillment of our tribe. The difference between humans of today, and humans of the ancient past, is that today we work a little harder to see all of humanity as our tribe. Indeed, we must do so in the modern world, because unlike ancient humans, it is impossible for us to live in isolation from the rest of humanity.

            Now, in your worldview, you seem to be proposing that moral behavior is to be valued because it is God’s will for humanity. But as a measure of the value of morality, “God’s will” seems as arbitrary as anything else you could come up with.

            In the first place, I have no reason to believe that my moral inclinations are derived from some deity. It’s not as though the universe has a moral inclination. Indeed, the universe seems indifferent to human flourishing: humans are only able to exist (so far) on the most infinitesimal fraction of the universe; any place else in the universe would be instant death. And even on this planet we face natural disasters that curtail our ability to flourish on a regular basis.

            In the second place, imagining morality as the “will of God” does not in any way increase its value to me. Why should it? One could religiously protest that “He” is our “father”, our “creator”, etc, but irrespective of the truth of such conceits, I find much more connection to the value of relationships in the human standing next to me, even the human whose suffering I can see in a video on the other side of the world, than in some disembodied spirit. This why I pointed out the Euthyphro dilemma to you. Even if one believes in God, the question then becomes, is love good because God wills it, or does God will love because it is good. If the former is true, then love is an arbitrary command, if the latter is true, then God is appealing to a value outside of himself, and his “willing it” changes nothing of it’s value. I find it simpler to take gods out of the picture altogether.

            Life does flourish on the planet, but such flourishing is limited. Humans are a relatively young species, and we know that the earth itself will not last forever. I don’t say all this to be depressing. Our lives are short, but we do value the length of time that we have together.

            “Together” is the key. Hermits are rare in human experience. Most of us (selfishly, if you like) crave the company of others. Our desires are measured against the experience of other humans. Sex is generally better with a partner, entertainment usually involves others (even computer entertainment didn’t really “take off” until we were connected to each other via the internet), and even our desires for fame and power require relationships with other humans. We generally measure the success of our work by how marketable or useful it becomes to other humans. Indeed most of the activities that bring us joy would be meaningless without the involvement of other people. We are bound together, and in such a society, it is often impossible to separate “selfish” behavior from “selfless” behavior.

            I find plenty of reasons to drive moral behavior right here on earth, in my own experience and how that experience leads me to concern for the experience of others. “God” adds nothing to this, and can, quite often, distract from it.

          • Michael Wilson

            Sorry, my device battery died and I was pretty tired so I didn’t get to Euthphro. My take is God commands love because it is good. It is good because given the nature of the universe and our biology love makes us feel better over the long run.

            God cannot appeal to a power or value out side of its self because to do so would mean that it is greater than God, and if God is that which is greatest, then the value has more claim to be God than “God”.

            It is not that God wills something that makes it valuable to do but that which is valuable to do is God’s will.

            You should derive more value from those around you than abstract spirits, and this was recognised by those prophets that said mercy and love are greater than ritual sacrifice. The experiences of those around you and throughout the cosmos are God’s experiences. When you make someone happy, you make God happy, when you make them sad you make God sad. Aside from those beings God creates there are no beings that can feel happiness.

          • You haven’t really resolved Euthyphro’s dilemma. You’re actually all over the map. You said that “God commands love because it is good”, but then you say “that which is valuable to do is God’s will”.

            So which is it? Is love valuable because it is God’s will, or is it God’s will because love is valuable for other reasons?

            I’m in complete agreement that we should serve our fellow humans. But I have no interest in doing so to serve the abstraction of “God’s will”. The needs of my fellow humans and my fulfillment in serving those needs are enough to motivate moral behavior. There is no logic that the will of a deity adds to this reality.

          • arcseconds

            I think “that which is valuable to do is God’s will” in context means the same thing as “God wills that which is valuable to do”. Paragraphs 1 and 3 read fairly clearly to me that the good is defined independently of God, but God happens to (or maybe necessarily) wills the good.

            It’s paragraph 2 that seems like it’s going the other way to me.

          • Michael Wilson

            If God is the ultimate thing, then those things that make love, value, good and so forth are produced from God. Loves consequences make it valuable. If love had different consequences it wouldn’t be love. God could no more make evil good than he could make squares circles, blue red, or hot cold. Sure someone could make you see red things as blue but to you the blue wouldn’t be red. Since by nature things do not want to be unhappy then I would suggest God intends for brings to be happy.

          • So you believe that morality (or love) can be summed up as making “things” happy. I assume by “things” you mean sentient creatures, since rocks, plants, photons, and most “things” do not experience happiness.

            But there is no reason to believe that the “ultimate thing” (granting the huge assumption that there is an “ultimate thing”) would intend us to be happy. Such an ultimate thing could be completely indifferent to our happiness; or it might even intend to make us unhappy. Philosopher Stephen Law makes an interesting case for an “Evil God”, showing that such a hypothesis is just as (if not more) reasonable than the case for a “Good God”:

            http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2010/02/evil-god-challenge.html

            Of course, my problem with granting God the authority over morality, is that it stops all rational inquiry into morality. Religious people can simply consult their religious texts to see what their God tells them, rather than considering morality based on meaningful principles.

          • Michael Wilson

            You assume correctly
            That is a huge assumption, I’m open to ideas like infinite regression or multiple independent self existent phenomenon.

            Yes, It is possible that the fate of all in the universe is despair and pain. Nevertheless, you should do your best to be happy, it’s what you want, and fate gave you that desire.

            No, I think it is only by rational inquiry that we know what is good. I don’t think God has explained this in sacred text despite what many think.

          • I agree that morality is not explained in a sacred text. Nor is it explained in anyone’s “personal revelation”. And since morality is best assessed through rational inquiry driven by our universal desire for human flourishing, I see nothing that can be usefully added by the notion of God. In fact, I think religious beliefs about morality far more often obscure moral issues.

    • Cynthia Brown Christ

      I read an awfully good about called What’s So Amazing About Grace? which explained this verse in a way that made sense to me.

      Jesus loves is because of who he is, not because of who we are. He loves us not because we deserve it, and and always the same without conditions or with any changing measure.

      This is how we should love others – not based on what we believe their worth is, based on our perceptions of their sinfulness.

      • That’s a nice sentiment – to love people based on our common humanity, not their worth to us individually. I think that’s how most us perceive of love today, Christian or otherwise. Again, I don’t see what Jesus adds to the mix. If I want to model my behavior on someone, I’ll model it on someone that I know or who has actually done something for others. A story of a self-less firefighter, a leader of nonviolent activism like Ghandi, or a doctor who risks his life abroad as part of Doctors without Borders – such true stories are far more evocative to me than an ancient rabbi working magic tricks with loaves and fishes.

  • Under Jewish law, the urgent need to bury an abandoned corpse trumps any concern about ritual impurity, even for priests, even for the High Priest. For an abandoned corpse, Leviticus 21:11 is trumped by verses such as Deuteronomy 21:23. It is possible that the priest in Jesus’ parable was operating under a different understanding of the law. But we cannot say that the priest was following the “clear command of Scripture.” Even if the priest was a Sadducee who felt bound by Leviticus 21:11, he needed to ALSO follow Deuteronomy 21:23 and have at least sought immediately to find someone else to bury an abandoned dead body.

    • Or perhaps this is an example that Jesus used precisely because at least some Jews would have agreed with him that even a priest should have stopped to either bury the man or help him if he was still alive? It might be rather like his question about who in his audience would not pull an animal out of a pit on the Sabbath, which was presumably uttered in awareness that “the Essenes” was the answer and most people presumably disagreed with them on that, too.

      • Yes. It’s an even better parable if we’re not sure exactly what the priest was supposed to do.

    • Shiphrah99

      And a quick trip to the mikveh afterward would have solved everything.

      • Well, actually, I think it was two trips to the mikveh, and seven days’ vacation from priestly stuff. But your underlying point is correct.

    • Gary

      Loop holes abound. Law and lawyers are more complicated than they are worth. Maybe that’s the point.

      From “avoid contracting corpse impurity”… I wonder how valid these bits of information are?…

      “Any son of Aaron – meaning a male priestly descendant of Aaron – is to avoid becoming impure by any dead Israelite except for his closest relatives:” implies “non-Israelite”, don’t worry, be happy!

      “since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. there has been no way to prepare ashes of the red heifer, which are required to lift corpse impurity from a person. Therefore, every Jew today is considered to be ritually impure with corpse impurity and no effort is generally made to avoid ritual impurity.” So what if you are located away from the temple, pre-70AD?

      Most interesting, that I had never heard before… Which seems to be pertinent for today, if true OT law…

      “A piece of a corpse, an aborted or miscarried fetus or even congealed putrefied liquid resulting from the tissue of a corpse can convey impurity, but only if it exceeds the size of an olive. This follows from the tradition of the Sages that a developing fetus is considered to be a human body only when it reaches the size of an olive.”

  • Leanne Zeck

    I have heard it said, the greatest way and hardest way for us to show our love for God is to love our fellow human being like Christ loves us.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    The folks who believe this conveniently omitting the second half of the commandment that Jesus said to us that is one of the most important aspects of the purpose of his life on earth. Matt 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

    And upon his dealth he fulfilled them!

    This also explains the handful of verses that say Gal 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Which clearly tells us that the way to show our love of God as a christian: is by loving our neighbor!!!

    How fricking clearer can that get???

    I often wonder if evengelistic preachers are stupid or evil??? What else could it be?

    • ccws

      “And upon his death he fulfilled them!”

      During his earthly life he fulfilled them. It wasn’t by dying but by LIVING the two Great Commandments (which are really one and the same) that he first brought healing and forgiveness and wholeness to everyone he met. “Your sins ARE [not “will be, because I’m going to die for them”] forgiven.” “TODAY salvation HAS COME [and is a present, living reality, not a future heavenly home] to this house.” And so on.