The Impossible Command

Matthew 22:34–40 (NIV)

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

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.”

CONSIDER THIS

RECAP: We are now in week 6 of what will be a 9 week series whose working title is The Fruit of the Spirit. I thought at the outset we would take one week each for each of the fruits of the Spirit. From the first days, the Lord led us in the opposite direction. We have spent these first five weeks getting back to cultivating the soil and then preparing the seedbed and sowing the seeds and now the process of growing. After all, fruit is the end of the process. And Jesus didn’t say if you work hard and become highly productive you will produce a lot of fruit. No, he said, “If you abide in me as I abide in you you will bear much fruit.” This rather has become a journey of awakening. We are walking a path with Jesus from awareness to attention to attunement to attachment to affection to abiding to abandonment. Yes that was seven words beginning with the letter A. Today we turn to this matter of attachment. 

Our text today finds us in the middle of a game of twenty questions, also known as gotcha, between Jesus and the Pharisees. This is what we do with God when we have completely lost sight of what we are doing. And after humoring our legalistic gamesmanship for a few questions, Jesus humbles us. He cuts to the chase of all things, summarily summarizing all six hundred and something laws and all the meandering midrash surrounding them with these words:

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.”

Now, we have all heard and read this a thousand times. We all get it at a certain level, at least we think we do. Can we be honest? I’ll go first—for much if not most of my life, I have saluted this text as an aspirational goal. You know what I mean. An aspirational goal is like a good intention without any real attention. It is a slogan without a strategy. It’s right up there with, “I need to lose some weight,” while reaching for another donut. 

As the master of the obvious insight, I would like to offer us what I call a BFO: Blinding Flash of the Obvious. The text containing these words of Jesus—the Son of God, the risen, ascended, reigning and soon returning Lord of heaven and earth—carries a term we hardly even notice anymore; much less grapple with. The term carries all the gravity of heaven on the earth. 

Anyone want to guess what it is?

No, it is not love. 

The term is commandment

Here’s the interesting part. Jesus issues a commandment here which we are entirely incapable of obeying apart from himself. It’s why the path now turns from attunement to attachment. We must press deeper into this notion of our inmost being and how God attaches to us there. Look again at the command:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

We so often think of love as action; and certainly it is, but notice where the commandment directs the action—heart, soul, mind. Yes, this is the stuff of the inmost being. This can’t be left to a nebulous sense of sloppy sentiment. We are coming into the core of it all. We are coming to the core work of attachment, the place of our deepest longing and some of our most broken places. Look where the command goes next:

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

There we have it. The love of God begins, middles, and ends with attachment to God, which becomes attachment to ourselves, which becomes attachment to other people. 

All true and lasting fruit-bearing must come through this place of attachment. 

Wake up, sleeper! We are pressing past the shallow end and into the deeps. This is what we are here for. 

THE PRAYER

Farmer Father God, thank you for the utter brilliance of Jesus, who commands us to love and not just to love but to become love. Thank you that he issues a command we cannot possibly keep without coming into this deepest attachment to you, to myself, and to others. I know this is the inmost place of my brokenness, and I rejoice that you will make it the place of my inmost blessedness. Holy Spirit open me up to this exploration and engagement. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen. 

THE QUESTION

Are you ready to make this turn from attunement to attachment—to get to the real core of the matter of both our pain and our possibilities? How do you relate to these three primary attachments addressed in this greatest commandment? Does the term “command” still feel aspirational or even optional to you? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. This so-called impossible commandment can be only be understood within the context of another statement of fact from Jesus, “Apart from me , you can do nothing .”

  2. I hear Jesus commanding two attachments, not three. The attachment to self is presumed by Jesus when He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He’s assuming that you already love yourself, not commanding you to do so. In fact, In the Gospels Jesus tells you to deny yourself, not to love yourself. He wants you and me to surrender our attachment to self so He can replace it with supernatural attachment to God and to our neighbor in our inmost being. We can’t freely lay down our life if we are attached to it. However, detachment from yourself prepares the “narrow way” for the living Jesus to give you His powerful heart, soul, and mind attachment to God and to your neighbor.

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