“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were known for their insistence on obedience to the finest details of Jewish law. They excluded from their concept of Judaism anyone who did not measure up to their exacting standards. A Pharisaic lawyer would doubtless have been considered even more of an authority on the legal niceties, which Jews had to obey to be part of the Temple community. Jesus takes the opportunity provided by the lawyer’s question—which was intended to entrap him in a way that would allow the authorities to take action against him—to simplify centuries of religious writing and intricate legalities into two simple sentences.
‘The Lord’ of the New Testament is the Christ—the divine essence that is the true identity of each person. Jesus is saying the most important commandment is to keep our focus clearly and firmly on our own intrinsic Oneness with the divine Source of all life and energy. When our heart, soul, and mind are truly centered in the Christ, every choice we make becomes a creative expression bringing more of that life and energy into expression as a new consciousness—the kingdom of heaven. The second commandment “is like it.” It requires us to recognize that same Christ energy in everyone we meet—to honor their innate divinity and creative power as fully as we honor our own.