The greatest commandment

Once again, Jesus is faced with a trick question. A Pharisee asks him which is the greatest of the commandments of God’s Law. Which one will he choose?

Jesus responds by quoting the prayer that he recited every day, and is still prayed daily by devout Jews; the words addressed to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.’ The prayer expresses complete faith and trust in the one true God. Jesus links a second commandment with it: ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ 

Jesus is making a powerful statement. The Pharisees were focused on observing the Law of God in every detail. Jesus is telling them that love of God cannot be separated from love of our neighbour. Indeed, since every person is made in God’s image, service of our neighbour is service of God. The service that we give to God in our prayer and worship is empty unless it moves us to serve others too. Our faith in God is real when we show love to our neighbour.

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