Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. –Matthew 22:37-40
As you study the life of Jesus, you begin to see that the Shema (Deut. 6:4-8) is central to His teaching and ministry. Most, if not all, of the people who heard Jesus quote part of the Shema had repeated those words that very day. Then Jesus did something radical, by adding a phrase that was not in the Shema but found in Leviticus. Here is the story: the Jewish experts on the Scriptures were quizzing Jesus about various statements in Scripture, when one of the leaders asked him this question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)
Jesus’ reply is recorded in today’s Scripture reference. He summarized the entire Law and Prophets with two phrases: “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” This is what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed.¹ When Jesus amended the Shema of Judaism by adding the statement about loving our neighbor, he probably brought the crowd to silence. Many experts would agree with me that this is a perfect summary of living the Christian life. You might consider it the super Cliff Notes of the Bible and teachings of Jesus.
For anyone who wants to understand what Jesus means by spiritual formation, the best place to start is the Shema of Judaism and His amended creed, found in Matthew 22:36-40. In these few sentences, we are given straightforward instructions on the most important parts when it comes to living out our Christian faith before our families, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ and the world.
It also clearly identifies our job description as parents. We are told who is to impress the faith on our children: parents. We are told how and where we are to teach and train them in the ways of God: the home. And, we are told what to teach them: love for God and love for others.²
Today, may you seek to live out the Jesus Creed wholeheartedly!
1. Of Jesus’ two instructions, to love God and love others, which do you struggle most to live out in your life? Spend a few moments considering why this is so.
2. What actions can you take today to live out both of these two commandments that make up the foundation of our Christian faith?
Deuteronomy 6:4-8; 1 John 4:19-21
1 The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others by Scot McKnight, Paraclete Press
² Adapted from Jim Burns’ book, Confident Parenting, Bethany House Publishers