08 November 2020

Jesus' Two Great Commandments

I fear some people misinterpret the Two Great Commandments that Jesus gave as a response to an interesting query. There is a temptation to overlay recent concepts of love on these two commandments and essentially reinterpret them in ways perhaps at variance with what was originally intended by the Lord.

Matthew 22:36-40

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The last verse says that the key to understanding everything else that has been revealed lies in the first two commandments.

The first commandment indicates an active and all-encompassing reverence for God, which I interpret as obedience-in-action to his commandments. As God doesn't force you to obey, the desire to keep his commandments must ultimately come from a place of total devotion (or love) rather than just the fickleness of fear and the avoidance of punishment. I say total devotion because the use of "with all thy..." a few times here - it seems you need that total commitment to gain the trenscendent goal of exaltation that God offers.

I fear that some combine the two great commandments together as if they both contain some unifying and singular definition of love. There are two commandments because two seperate things are being taught.

The second great commandment sounds much like the "golden rule" to me, as this from Matthew 7:12 - 

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Note the repetition of "the law and the prophets". This shows that The Golden Rule is directly related to the Two Great Commandments. It doesn't make sense that it relates to our relationship with God as we can never return to God anything remotely close to what he has done for us. Therefore, it must be a reference to the second commandment, which works very well.  Treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated seems to be the manifestation of the love Jesus demands of us toward our fellow man.

I think a significant group of people read more into these than is healthy. God does not demand much of us through commandments (no matter the Jewish tradition of 600+ of them) and everyone can live their lives obediently, exempting those who lack accountability. However, in order to live these commandments throughout a long life, a dedication to God and his purposes are ultimately necessary, as the First Commandment indicates. 

Modern love has embraced the feminine and soft ministrations of mothers as the ultimate expression of love, to the excluding of nearly every other sort. Many people project this sort of love on God and Christ in a motherly and demanded protection from pain and suffering and (frankly) incovenience. I conjecture that many reject a traditional God because they don't understand his purposes and therefore totally discount the manifestations of his love through a well-provisioned Earth, a clear plan to Godly living, and a redemptive Atonement through Christ. Today, the work of fathers and men to provide and open opportunities and motivate, much in the vein of our God-father, is universally disparaged and many demand the acceptance of only totally emasculated boy-children. Many people, worshipping their "inner child"(ishness) and an undemanding Earth-goddess-mother to the exculsion of much else, prefer a soft and comforting blanket of "mommy-love" as opposed to the challenging opportunity of exaltation which the masculine God offers and which constitutes his love for us.

I love my mom. I love my wife and her mothering of both me and our children. However, I'm just as grateful for the different love and example of my father, who most certainly does not mother. Beyond that, I am even more grateful for my Heavenly Father, who gave each of us loving mothers for the bulk of our lives, but is the great example of that "push-you-along", rarely satisfied, and more fatherly love.

God is the ultimate example of a good father: setting expectations that his children can attain and challenging them to rise to those expectations. It is a masculine love, not tending to softness and too often overlooking curable faults. God's love is more a command to rise to our divine heritage and become more like Christ. This is sometimes described as "tough" love where transcendence to exaltation is the goal that is set before us. God loves us enough to put us on the upward path, make that way clear for us, and give us the resolve that we need to succeed. What an amazing Father!

The next time you read and think about the Two Great Commandments, I hope you consider different manifestations of love that could also fit into Christ's commandments to us.