28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other.33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:28-34 (NLT)
For much of my life I had a list of things that I thought I had to do in order to make God happy. Likewise, I had another list of things that I thought I had to avoid in order to keep God from striking me down. My ability to maintain both of these lists fluctuated so greatly that I eventually gave up trying. It wasn’t because I had figured out how grace worked. I decided that there was no way I could ever please God so I just quit. I assumed that He was going to smite me and send me off to hell. As much as I wanted to love God and follow Him, it was really difficult to do when I was absolutely terrified of Him.
Fortunately, I eventually reached a point where I began to see God’s grace and mercy. Jesus showed it to people all throughout his ministry here on earth. He constantly taught that we are supposed to show it as well. For someone like me that was a revelation. I was so used to keeping lists and holding others accountable to them that grace was almost a foreign concept. When I read the account of Jesus and this teacher of the Law I am still amazed.
Jesus not only took the ten commandments, he took every law, rule, and regulation and distilled them down to two simple commands: Love God and Love Others. That sounds so simple but we all know that it is much more difficult than it sounds. Loving God means that we are willing to let go of everything we hold dear and putting Him first. That’s hard. Loving Others means that we learn to forgive and we learn how to look at others through God’s eyes instead of judgment or hatred. That may be even harder.
I really do want to do those two things and I honestly try my best. Here’s the kicker, my best isn’t always good enough. That’s why it is important to remember grace. It doesn’t do me any good to reduce my list to just two things if I still that my salvation depends on perfectly keeping those two things. I will still mess it up from time to time. That’s why I still need grace. Love God and Love Others, it does sound so simple doesn’t it? We all know that it’s much harder than it sounds. Thank God for His unfailing love and mercy. We all need it.
Grace and peace.