Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

First, the Pharisees tried to trip up Jesus; then it was the Sadducees’ turn, but both groups were without success. And so the Pharisees went at it again for “round three.” In this attempt, an expert in the Law sought to trap Jesus by asking him what the greatest commandment was.  The Pharisees believed some commandments were more important than others. They counted 613 commandments in all, so they really believed this question would confuse Jesus, and hoped to make him look foolish and discredit him. At this point, they figured that no matter what Jesus said, someone would disagree with him, and his popularity would decline as a result. Jesus responded to the lawyer’s question by stating that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, quoting Deuteronomy. It is interesting to note that even though the lawyer only asked Jesus to give the one great commandment, Jesus decided to throw in another. The “second is like it,” he said: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus taught that the one who loves God will also love other people. The two go hand in hand. All people are important to God and have great value in his sight. You can’t love God without offering compassion and kindness to those who have been created in his image. And so again, for the third time, Jesus answered in a way that silenced his enemies.

Some may protest, “Of course I love God. I just don’t really like people.” But it isn’t possible to truly love God without loving those he loves. Jesus added the second commandment for a reason. It feels easy to love God because God is perfect. He makes no mistakes, and we can fully trust in his character. But people are not perfect. Even those who have been redeemed still battle sin, and as a result, they may let us down at some point. Yet Jesus says we must love them. He calls us to extend to other people the same kindness, understanding, forgiveness, and grace that we allow ourselves. If there’s someone in your life that you haven’t loved as much as you love yourself, choose to change that today. Don’t make excuses for yourself anymore, but just step out and do the right thing. Make sure you are seeking to obey both of the great commands of Jesus.