Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Start:Stop - The greatest commandment

Here is last Tuesday's Start:Stop meditation. The next Start:Stop will be at St Stephen Walbrook on Tuesday 20th October between 7.30 and 9.30am. Drop in for 10 minutes of quiet reflection on your way into work.

Bible reading

‘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 neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”’ (Matthew 22: 34 - 40)


There are 613 commandments in the Torah, which divide up into 248 positive commandments (Thou shalt's) and 365 negative commandments (Thou shalt not's). Jesus says that all these hang on the two commandments to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

A helpful illustration for the way in which these commandments work is to do with learning to drive a car. The idea is that you will quickly come to do most of the things “automatically”, changing gear, using the brakes, etc., and that you will develop the “virtues” of a good driver, looking out for other road users, not allowing yourself to be distracted, etc. This equates to taking on board and applying the positive commandments (the ‘thou shalts’ which are primarily to do with respect for others). But, going back to our driving analogy, the highways agency constructs crash barriers which, if we don’t drive appropriately, ensure that damage is limited; and rumble strips, which make a loud noise on the tyre if we drift to the edge of the roadway. “Rules” and “the Moral Law” are like those crash barriers and rumble strips. Ideally we won’t need them because we will have learned to develop the virtues commanded by the Law and will drive down the moral highway appropriately. But the rules are there so that when we start to drift, we are at once alerted and can take appropriate action.

The Law, then, is there to keep us safe. If we all abide by the Law – do not murder, do not steal - then we do not harm each other. That is good, but it is not enough. We also need to learn to love one another. That means doing more than the Law requires but to love in this way is also to fulfil the Law. That’s because, if the Law is about maintaining good relations between us, love becomes the fulfilment of the Law’s intent. This is why Jesus said the heart of the Law is found in these words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The intent of the law is that we live well together. The best way in which to live well together is that we love, therefore love fulfils the intent of the law. But the law cannot legislate for love therefore we must go beyond the law in order that we truly love.

To understand the way this works, another road based illustration is helpful; that of parents teaching their children the rules of the road. To begin with, when children are very young, the rules of the road are very restrictive i.e. the child must never cross a road without a parent and must always cross at a crossing with the parent and while holding the parents hand. As the child grows, they are taught new rules for crossing the road; stop, look and listen. Now, the aim is that the child learns to judge for him or herself when it is safe to cross the road. Eventually, the rules with which we began – don’t cross on your own, don’t cross unless you are at a crossing – are left behind because the child has learnt how to cross the road safely using their own initiative. We are able to use initiative because we have not only learnt the rules but have also learnt to apply them in our lives and situations. At this point, we are no longer restricted just to crossing the road at specific crossing places but can cross wherever we judge it to be safe to do so. So, we have gone beyond the rules by learning and applying the rules. In other words, we have found the true purpose of those rules which our parents enforced when we were young. In the same way, we need the Law to prevent harm but prevention of harm, by itself, does not guarantee good relations. For that, we need to genuinely love others and love takes us beyond the laws which prevent harm.


Law-giving God, we thank you for your laws which alert us when we begin to drift away from your way. We ask that as we encounter temptations within our workplaces to act in ways which deviate from your ways and standards, we will be alert to the warning signs you send our way.

Teach us to love you with heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Enable us to maintain good relations within our workplaces by minimising scope for conflict or blame and by promoting respect for others. Enable us to go beyond minimum standards of behaviour by showing love to those with which we work.

Teach us to love you with heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Loving God, you showed us what all-out love looks like when you sacrificed yourself for others. Enable us to love you and others with all our being and in word and deed. Help us to explore what that might mean in our workplaces.

Teach us to love you with heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves.


Being alert to drift, maintaining good relations, minimising scope for conflict, promoting respect, loving with heart, soul and mind. May those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen.


Barrett Band - Your Love.

No comments: