PREPARE TO LISTEN. Be still for as long as you need, then pray: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
READ: Mark 12:28-34 ‘Walk on the two feet of love’
28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.
I wonder what response we’d expect from Jesus today if we were to ask this same question about the greatest commandment? Think about your response.
It’s been too easy to reduce Christianity to following moralistic dos and don’ts, often selected on the basis of our ideological or political interests. Some of us might expect Jesus to pick the best of our moral rules as the greatest commandment. Perhaps that’s what the scribe anticipated too. Jesus’ response goes way beyond the best of our moralistic standards. When we love God more than anything else, and love our neighbor (that is, the marginalized, the alien, the poor and not just the ones who love us back) as ourselves, we’ll discover our moral codes are hopelessly inadequate, even unnecessary. Even Paul claimed, “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). And to the church in Galatia he wrote, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
The 14th century St Catherine of Sienna took these words of Jesus about the greatest commandment to heart. She spent her short life in earnest practice of loving God through loving her neighbor. She didn’t merely love the neighbor who lived next door and was nice and loving back. She loved the neighbor who was unlovely and unloved, discarded and oppressed by society. She maintained that both loves, love of God and love of neighbor, are essential. We can’t have the one without the other hence, she said, they are the two feet of love and we must walk on both feet.
In my church I’m reminded of these two ‘greatest’ commandments every Sunday as we confess: “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” The weekly confession reminds me to try again each week to walk on the two feet of love. What reminds you to walk on the two feet of love?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
This week, Lord I desire to walk on the two feet of love. Help me when I fall short to get up and try again and never give up. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST, by walking on the two feet of love.