Answering An Important Question

Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment? This sounds like a question I would ask. If I can only keep one commandment, which one do I really, really have to keep? Jesus responded by saying “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart. . .” And we all nod our heads in agreement. What a great answer. All you have to do is really, really, love God and you will be fine. But like most of Jesus’ answers, the simplicity of the words hides the difficulty of obedience. We are used to hearing lovers say to their beloved they love them with all of their heart. But what does that mean? For most of us to love someone with all of our hearts means to have a deeply intense emotional response to the beloved. Now emotions are a vital part of our lives, but is this what Jesus meant? Probably not. In biblical language, the heart is the place of our desires. This is where all of our “wants” come from. As James reminds us in his letter, whatever we desire becomes the very thing we do. This leads to a different question. Perhaps the question isn’t so much about feeling an intense emotional response, but in simply wanting God more than anything else. I want to be with God more than I want anything else and wanting God more than anything else requires a moment by moment saying yes to God and no to everything else. It is saying no to the false promises of the world; no to the distractions of our entertainment driven culture; no to victimhood and blaming others. And then, saying yes to God. It is saying yes to His kingdom and His work in the world; yes to love and grace; yes to hope and ultimately, the victory of the risen Christ. The thing that makes this commandment difficult is that this process of saying yes and no never ends. In fact, it gets harder. We begin saying no to the easy things in our lives (jealousy, materialism, etc.) but then, when we get to hard things like pride and self centeredness, these issues have to be addressed at a deep and sometimes painful level. In fact, you will spend the rest of your life saying yes and no. I think this is why Jesus gave us only two commandments. He alone knew how much time they would really require.

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