And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that he had answered them well, asked him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you 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.’
“The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Jesus didn’t answer the question he was asked.
He was asked what commandment is the foremost of all.
He answered that there were two.
The first part of his answer is a quote of Deuteronomy 6:4,5, known traditionally as the Shema.
Jesus, though, does not feel that this ultimate commandment stands alone.
Jesus intertwines the centrality of loving God with loving one’s neighbor.
The foremost commandment has two inseparable facets to it.
Loving God does not need to be forced or coerced out of us. It’s not that kind of commandment.
It’s important. Super important. Important to God. Important for us.
It’s a privilege. It’s a gift. It’s a relationship that’s truly mutual.
So Jesus ranks it “foremost.”
At the same time its expression is more than sentimental feelings of affection toward our Creator and Savior.
Hence Jesus’ interesting and bold addition.
The foremost commandment has a corollary, a sequel, a buddy, a twin, a second, a flip side.
Imagine that you asked Jesus this question.
What’s going on in either your worship life or your relationships that Jesus might want to stretch your understanding of the Shema?
What opportunities to love other people might you be overlooking? avoiding? resenting?
What might help you connect being good to these people with loving God more fully?