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CORE 52 Chapter 31 The Greatest Command

Last night, Monday, April 6, would have been the night of the championship game match up for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  Commonly known as March Madness, it quickly became “March sadness,” as it and all other sporting events involving large gatherings of fans and crowds were quickly postponed. This was an annual event that brought many together in the practice of “filling out your brackets.”  Many times, fellow coworkers or family members would fill out these brackets (table of match ups from the tournament schedule) with no intimate knowledge of the teams playing or experience in predicting the outcome of sporting events at all, much less college basketball.  It would often invite humorous attempts and picking teams based on uniform colors, or whosE mascot sounded scarier (Buckeye versus Wolverine...really? It is even close?) It really is a sad missing segment for many living in this COVID-19 world today.

In the meantime, many have found creative ways to entertain themselves by creating their own “brackets” and attempting to keep themselves and others amused.  I have been in one such discussion regarding an “all time college basketball champion” bracket which includes my beloved Gators from 2007, along with about 5 versions of John Wooden’s great UCLA teams from the 60s and 70s (ask me next week how it all went down; we’re at the sweet sixteen right now).  Others, led by our own Josh Colvin, have had more light-hearted discussions about topics like the most popular Disney movie (Lion King, of course), best restaurant (Texas Roadhouse? I think the fix is in!) or favorite morning cereal (still dealing with the early round loss of Life cereal).  The conversations these topics bring up can always be entertaining and fun, yet they can also leave one with disappointment and shock (How in the world can Cracker Barrel lose to Texas Roadhouse).  From sports, to politics, to restaurants, to movies, we love a good debate.

Apparently, debating was much loved in the time of Jesus, too.  He was often entangled in conversations and debates with the teachers of the law, the Pharisees, or other religious leaders about various topics.  In this week’s CORE 52 reading, we focus in on the last question Jesus is asked by the leaders while alive here on earth.  In Mark 12, Jesus is directly asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28). Now keep in mind, there are 612 different commandments found in the Law and for one to ask which is the most important would seem to be an insurmountable task, and yet Jesus responds immediately with a passage from Deuteronomy known as the Shema, which summed up says, to love God first and foremost. And Jesus doesn’t stop there, He quickly adds on there is a second greatest commandment and it is to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Leviticus 19:18).  The interesting thing to point out with these two commands is not how much better they are than any of the other commands, precepts, laws, and decrees. The amazing observation is that if one were to keep these two commands, you would, in essence, be keeping all of them.

That’s the difference in this debate. Often times when trying to determine the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) in any category, it eventually comes down to one particular player, movie or car or whatever you might be discussing, which has dominance over all the other participants. For example, I believe Michael Jordan is the GOAT of NBA players, with on one else even close. Or as hard as it is to say this, Tom Brady is the GOAT when it comes to NFL quarterbacks.  There is no room to include anyone else.  You can’t pick a GOAT and have a tag along or let that improve everyone else.  There can be only one!

And yet with Jesus, as usual, expect the unexpected. He clearly identifies the greatest commandments, but not with the intent of lowering the value of or lessening the impact of all the other laws. No, with one simple statement, Jesus exalts every other law to the same level.  Every command of God comes down to two aspects. Love God. Love Others. So when you think about honoring God and have a hard time seeing how picking up groceries for your neighbor or taking your aging mother to the doctor as honoring to God, remember that you are indeed fulfilling the Law and obeying Christ by loving others and therefore loving Him. Obey the two greatest and you are obeying all of what Christ asks of us to do.

Love God. Love Others. Be the Church.

Pete Ramsey