The summary of the law

Last updated on June 22, 2021


“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

When Jesus was teaching and preaching, the people noticed that He was teaching with authority. And they were right, since Jesus was not an ordinary human, but the Son of God! But the religious leaders were skeptical, since they considered Jesus a threat for their own position. Therefore, they wanted to test him with some complicated questions about the law, which was their field of expertise.

When Jesus was asked which is the great commandment, He did not pick one of the Ten Commandments. He quoted a summary of the law as written down in Deuteronomy 6:5, which requires us to love God above everything else and other people as ourselves. This is indeed a good summary: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

Reading about the Ten Commandments, you may have kept a mental checklist about which commandments you have kept and which ones you don’t manage to keep. But Jesus’ summary makes clear that God’s law doesn’t work that way. It is a coherent unity, not a random collection of commandments. Moreover, it is not focused on outward behavior but on our heart attitude.

Do you love God and other people?

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