The Two Commandments

Most people know the ten commandments, or have at least heard of them.  Dictated by God himself in chapter twenty of the book of Exodus, they are, paraphrased and in order:

Put no other Gods or idols ahead of the one true God
Do not misuse the name of God
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
Honor your Father and Mother
Do not murder
Do not commit adultery
Do not steal
Do not bear false witness
Do not covet your neighbor’s house
Do not covet your neighbor’s wife

This week, two people reminded me of what Jesus said in the book of Matthew, Chapter 22. One of the “expert” Pharisees, determined to catch Christ in a mistake, asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest. Jesus replied with this: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second law is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40).

The first person to remind me of this was a Pastor, and a friend. We were discussing a question I had about how to find balance in my life. Since I first came to faith–I mean truly accepted Christ as my personal savior–I have had questions about how much of my former life and personality should remain. What aspects of that person’s life am I able to retain? Do I want to keep any of them?

Pastor Mark had read my post about baseball (and core values), and he brought up Paul’s letter to the Galatians to illustrate a point about how simple it is to keep this at the core of every aspect of my life. In chapter five of that letter, when prompted by bickering factions regarding which aspects of the Law to which they ought to adhere, Paul replies “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free . . . For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5: 13-15).

As Pastor Mark points out, adhering to these two principles–Loving God first, and my fellows as myself–will allow me to grow into that balance organically. Allowing Christ to guide my soul to God with a heart of service will help me walk by the Spirit, and if I allow that core value to be my guide (putting Him first, next, and last) then the other behaviors about which I am uncertain will become more clear. The things that take me further from Him will slough off naturally, and the things that make my path to Him clearer will enliven my heart.

The second person to remind me of that lesson is a new friend. We are just getting to know each other within the context of faith, and when I prompted this person with a question about favorite guiding verses, my friend replied specifically with the above-mentioned passage. This person strives to make this core value the center of all decisions, and keep it at the center of her heart. I admire that greatly.

I knew, even in the moment, that it was no coincidence that in the same week two people had brought this “core” concept to my attention. I knew it from my own readings, but I also needed a reminder, I think. My faith is growing stronger every day, but I am still learning how to live with that faith as my center, and how to be guided by the Spirit, and not by my own mind.

Every day, in every single prayer that I say, I ask God to grant me only that which I need, and for Him to help me understand the difference between what I need and what I simply want. This week, he delivered that daily bread in the form of the aforementioned message.

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