The Two Foundational Commandments
3rd August 2008
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
When Jesus said “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” He was saying that if we obey
these two commandments then we will obey all the Law and all the Prophets. He was also saying that these
commandments embody the reasons why the Law and the Prophets say what they say. The reason that Law contains
what it contains is because it explains how to love God and to love our neighbour. For example, “Thou shalt
not steal” is written in the law because it’s not loving to steal. And similarly with the prophets.
Verse 37 contains “the first and greatest commandment”: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your strength.
We could re-phrase this as: Love The Lord your God with all your feelings, all your personality and all
Or as Give your emotions to God. Give your resources to God. Give your thinking to God. Do this because
He is your Lord.
Thus, when the church is gathered for worship, be there. And:
- Worship God emotionally – from the heart.
- Worship God physically – with your body; lips, hands, arms, knees…
- Worship God intelligently – think about what you’re doing and singing, and why.
And when you’re not in church,
- Serve God emotionally – from the heart.
- Serve God physically – with your body.
- Serve God intelligently – with your mind.
Verse 39 contains the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbour.
I expect you’re familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength
and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.
They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought
him to an inn and took care of him.
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when
I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
The person who loved his neighbour loved him regardless of the fact that they were of different races and
different religions, and regardless of the traditional enmity between them. My neighbours include Muslims,
Hindus, Sieks, Rastfarians and atheists. My neighbours include illegal immigrants, criminals, yobs, chavs,
drunks, drug addicts and prostitutes. My neighbours include people from different social backgrounds and
people with different tastes... Everybody is my neighbour. I may not like all my neighbours, but the second
most important commandment is a commandment – I must love all of them.
And I must love them without discriminating:
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend
to ‘sinners’, expecting to be repaid in full.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back…"
And we are rewarded for loving indisciminately:
"…Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the
ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be
poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
And how can we love our neighbours? In a thousand ways! A saying of Jesus is widely known as "The
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
How would you like your neighbour to behave towards you? Behave towards him in that way! This covers all
sorts of things, but here are a few ways I would like my neighbour to behave towards me, and so they are ways
I should behave towards my neighbour:
- Pray for them
- Serve them
- Welcome them
- Forgive them
- Celebrate them
And here's one more: