If you drive across this country and check the statutes in different cities and states, you will find some interesting requirements and prohibitions. For example,
– In Gary, Indiana, it is illegal to ride a street car within four hours of eating garlic.
– In Nebraska, it is illegal for tavern operators to sell beer unless they are simultaneously cooking soup.
– In Waterloo, Nebraska, it is illegal for barbers to eat onions between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
– In Corvallis, Oregon, it is illegal for young ladies to drink coffee after 6 in the evening.
– In Lehigh, Nebraska, it is illegal to sell doughnut holes.
– In Green, New York, it is illegal to eat peanuts and walk backwards on the sidewalk while a concert is happening.
– In Lexington, Kentucky, it is illegal to carry an ice-cream cone in your pocket.
– In Vermont, it is illegal to paint your horse.
– And in Maryland, it is illegal for a woman to go through her husband’s pants while he sleeps.
One day, a “teacher of the law” asked Jesus a question about the laws of God: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
To us, that may seem to be a strange question. Imagine someone asking a police officer or a judge, “What is the most important law for me to obey?”
What do you think they might answer? Don’t text while driving? Don’t drink and drive? Don’t molest a child? Don’t murder? Don’t carry an ice-cream cone in your pocket? Or don’t go through your husband’s pockets while he is sleeping?
Why would a “teacher of the law” ask such a question? The point of the question is not to find out what one law he must obey to get into heaven. The real question is this: What is the one command that holds together all the commands of God?
Jesus answers, “‘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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Jesus boils down all of God’s commands to love: Love for God and love for others.
As human beings, our greatest need is for relationship with God, so that’s where Jesus begins. Psalm 42:1 declares, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” F.F. Bruce puts it this way, “The soul’s deepest thirst is for God Himself, who has made us so that we can never be satisfied without Him.” Our greatest need is for intimate relationship with God, so the first command calls us to love God with the whole of our being.
If we truly love God, and if God’s love truly lives in us, the second command flows logically from the first. If we truly love God, then we will love those whom God loves—and the Bible stresses that God loves everyone. If God’s love truly lives in us, then His love will flow through us to others. 1 John 4:20-21 states, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
Because God cares deeply for everyone, God calls His people to care for our neighbors even as we care for our own selves.
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.