The Greatest Commandment
by Brett Bradshaw
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall 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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
My wife and I were headed back to Dallas when we stopped by the nursing home in Nacogdoches to see my grandparents. “We’ll just visit for a minute,” I thought, “then get on the road.” My grandfather laid in bed with my grandmother by his side. We kept company with them for a little while before saying our usual goodbyes, “Bye, PawPaw. Bye, MawMaw. We love you.” “A’ight. Y’all be safe,” I imagine my grandmother said. As we started to leave, my grandfather looked at me and said, “I love you, Baby.” Those were the last words I ever heard PawPaw say. Why is it that they mean so much to me now? I think the reason is that love is the meaning of life.
When asked which commandment is the most important, Jesus replied, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12: 29-30). Jesus quoted the Shema, literally meaning “hear,” from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The God whose love spoke the world into existence called His loved ones to love. If loving God is the most important commandment, Jesus says the second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The problem is that we do not love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we all suffer the consequences.
In a world that strips love of any real depth and bends it out of shape, “the best translation of love,” Madeleine L’Engle writes, “is the name of Jesus, and that will tell us everything about love we need to know.” God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to suffer the wounds of our broken love. His death on the cross revealed the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love that defeated death on the third day. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Look around. See the people in your life. Really see them. The love of God revealed in Jesus is the power for their well-being.
Wendell Berry writes:
There is no marrying
in Heaven, and I submit; even so, I would like
to know my wife again, both of us young again,
and I remembering always how I loved her
when she was old. I would like to know
my children again, all my family, all my dear ones,
to see, to hear, to hold, more carefully
than before, to study them lingeringly as one
studies old verses, committing them to heart
The poet’s longing is a clue to the meaning of life revealed in the love of Jesus Christ. We are made to be loved by God and to love God, to see, to hear, to hold our neighbor in the love of Jesus Christ for He has committed us to heart forever.