What is the Greatest Commandment?

This sermon is based on Matthew 22:34-40 by Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr. delivered at Puno United Methodist Church, Quezon City, Philippines on October 24, 1999.

In Jesus’ time, he encountered a lot of oppositions and enemies. One time when he was teaching the Gospel a group of law experts, the Pharisees, approached him and asked a difficult question. “What commandment in the law is greatest?” Jesus easily answered them since his answer is his life; it is his mission to the world. He responded,the_greatest_commandment

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In this text, two kinds of law are indicated, the Law towards God and the Law towards man.

I. LAW TOWARDS GOD. In the answer of Jesus to the group of law experts, he just parroted the commandments in the Old Testament. The first phrase is found in the Deuteronomy 6:5; and the second phrase can be found in Leviticus 19:18, and in based on the conclusion of Jesus on these two commandments hangs the Law (Torah) and the prophets (Book of Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, etc.).

Deuteronomy 6:5 was a part of Shema, the basic and essential creed of Judaism, and this text was the first text which every Jewish child commits to memory. For the Old Testament, Love is the total commitment of life to God. When we say we love God and we do not obey Him and does not do His will for us is a bogus spirituality.

II. LOVE TOWARDS MAN. The second commandment that Jesus told is found in Leviticus 19:18. Here, love for God must issue in love for humans. It is to be noted in which order the commandments come; it is love of God first, and love of man second. In the chronology, we can deduce a theological point that we cannot love fellow human beings without God initiating His love to us. We can exercise love only when we experience, and feel the love of God how could we share love to others? Perhaps, we can only share hate and grudges, since they are rich in us!

Why we should lochrist_resurrectedve our fellowmen? Because man is a creation of God and he is in the image of God (Imago Dei) [Genesis 1:26-27]. Man is not a conglomeration of manifold chemical elements or just part of brute creation. Man is in image of God. How could you hate a person when you think of him as a creation of God and he is in God’s image!

Let me explain further the meaning of Imago Dei. The generation X might try to argue: If man is in the image of God, and Max Alvarado is a man, ergo, God is look-like Max Alvarado! Nope, that’s not the right argumentation for the concept of Imago Dei. Let me start like this, God is a person, and man is a person, thus, man is in the image of God in terms of person. And what is person? Let me explain “person” by giving you the elements of person: mind (cognitive), emotion (affective) and will (evaluative). Man has these three elements of person and God has also these three elements, thus, we are in Imago Dei.

Jesus encouraged us to use these elements to love God. We should love him with all our mind, heart and soul. And we can only love God if we are going to love our fellow human beings. We should love God via people in need. Let us now think who among our friends, enemies, comrades and officemates need our attention and help, and let us try to love God through helping those people. (www.sergioarevalo.net)

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