All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. – Matthew 22:40
When Jesus said we had only two commandments to worry about, I thought that was a license to let grace triumph over legalism. Love God and love your neighbor. Period. That means there are asterisks we can put after some of the Ten Commandments. Don’t steal, unless it’s for a starving family of Jews hiding from the Nazis. Similarly, don’t lie unless it is to protect them. I recall a theologian justifying this with a “mental reservation;” you say to yourself, “I’m doing this for the law of love, for the welfare of another.”
But it’s not that simple. We need to look deeper.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) are nothing more than expressing concretely what Jesus said. The first four deal with interactions with God, and the last six deal with human relationships. Behind both sets, though, lies the same thing: RESPECT THE RELATIONSHIP.
With God, you commit yourself to remembering, honoring, and obeying.
With others, you consider their welfare by being honest, not stealing, etc.
We need to go deeper yet, though. You can’t respect the relationship unless you’re willing to do something else: BE HUMBLE.
Jesus got right to the point about this in how he began the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. Who is blessed by God? The meek, the thirsty for righteousness, the merciful. We can’t be any of those things unless we’re able to dislodge ourselves from the center of the universe. If we’re not able to do that, obeying the commandments—ten or two—will be always elusive.
I’m constantly amazed at the wisdom of Jesus. It comes, indeed, from a higher Source.
May we seek his grace “to bend our pride to God’s control.”