Concerning the Two Most Important Commandments in the Law

Saint Luke Archbishop of Simferopo

Of the three Gospel readings which you have heard today, I especially wish to draw your attention to the first, for it is of utmost importance for all Christians, and for every human being who loves God. So, listen:

“And one of them, a lawyer, sought Him and asked, saying: ‘Teacher! What is the chief commandment in the Law?’ Jesus said to him: ‘Love the Lord the your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your understanding. This is the first and chief commandment; the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. In these two commandments all of the Law and the Prophets are contained.'” (Matt.22:35-40)

Remember, remember that in these two most important commandments in all of the law, all is contained: all the Prophets, all of the Law, all of our faith.

It is extrememly important for every youth, for every young person, who is just setting out upon his life, to think deeply over the purpose which he is setting for himself in life, to think about the paths to the fulfillment of this purpose, about how he will construct his life, what profession he will choose, so that it might be pleasing to God.

Both he and his parents must make the extremely important and difficult decision as to his life’s path. And you know how frequently people make mistakes in this choice; you know how often both parents and young people forget those other most important words of the Lord Jesus, which you are hearing now: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will cleave to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24)

“Mammon” is a Syro-chaldean word which personifies all the goods of life, and money especially. And you hear that it is impossible to serve two masters. Everyone must choose either to serve God or to serve mammon.

But parents often prefer the service of mammon for their children, arranging their lives with money as the most important goal — and the young people choose the service of mammon.

May this never happen to any of you.

Let us always remember the commandment of whole-hearted love for God. Upon this commandment, upon the keeping of it, we must always construct the paths of our lives.

Having chosen these paths, we must above all keep in mind and penetrate into the great commandments of Christ – the Beatitudes, which we hear sung at every Liturgy. We must be penetrated by the luminous parables of Christ and, on these two foundations — His commandments and His parables, we must proceed with all the arrangement of our lives.

The first of the two most important commandments, the commandment of complete, consuming love for God, must stand before every Christian in every day of his life, until the end of his days.

Never, never must he forget this most important of commandments. Even if he should live in all piety and purity, nevertheless the flame of this first and most important commandment must burn always in his heart and before the eyes of his mind: the commandment of love for God.

Indeed, all noble, worthy people, all kind people, who are not exclusively concerned for the coming day and the costly things of life — all of these better sons of nature understand the righteousness of God especially well.

But to those who do not believe in God, nor in anything spiritual, there is only one important truth. They strive towards only one righteousness. And what truth is that? They strive toward earthly righteousness, to the truth of just relations between the peoples of each race, between all nations — this is the earthly righteousness, the human truth. They think only about this.

But we, who have take for our motto the first and most important of all the commandments, the commandment of whole-hearted and limitless love for God, can we limit ourselves to this? Of course not!

We believe with all our hearts not only in this earthly righteousness, a truth that is progressive and imperfect; we believe with all our hearts in a higher righteousness, a perfect truth, which exists only with God. We believe in that righteousness, the knowledge of which makes the saints worthy in the life beyond the grace. So here is what we must understand and remember: In tempestuous times of human history, men often forget about the eternal, all-perfect righteousness. In such turbulent periods, there are conflicts between people and between nations for the establishment only of the earthly righteousness, which is always imperfect.

Can we be in perfect unity with people of such aspirations? Of course not! Never, never, not for one day of our life must we forget that there is also an all-perfect, eternal righteousness, which exists only with God.

And if it should happen that we should be persecuted, if they should keep us from confessing our Lord and God Jesus Chris twith all our hearts and all our thoughts, if they should forbid us even to confess his All-holy name, then let us remember the awful saying of Christ: ” But whoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Heavenly Father.” (Matt. 10:33)

Never, never let us deny the Lord Jesus Christ, for we know and believe with all our hearts in the truth of His saying about Himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6). Let us always go by the path of Christ, let us strive for life eternal.

This is what the first and most important commandment teaches us. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39)

This commandment also should stand before the eyes of each Christian, as an image of his conscience, as a criterion, as the standard of his relationship to his neighbor.

Remember that it is insufficient simply to keep form offending your neighbors, to refrain from doing them evil. God requires much more from us. He requires that we should relate to them as we want them to relate to us. Remember, remember this second most important commandment in the Law.

Remember that we sin when fail to give our whole heart to our neighbor, even if we don’t grieve him or do evil to him. Remember this and, if you notice that there is not enough love toward your neighbor in your actions, then hurry to repent before God.

May the Great Law-giver of kindness and righteousness, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, help us in such repentance.

Amen.

Translated from Russian by Jeremy Boor

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