Unity Peace

One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28–31 ESV)

Like the scribe in our passage above, I not only want to know what is the most important, but I want my life to reflect what is the most important. Dallas Seminary professor Mark Constable notes of this passage, “The rabbis counted 613 commands in the Mosaic Law: 365 negative and 248 positive. They recognized that all were not equally important or equally foundational. They debated which were the ‘heavy’ commands and which were the ‘light’ ones. They also tried to formulate principles that comprehended the rest of the Law. These were the concerns of the law teacher who asked Jesus what type of command He regarded as first in importance” (emphasis added).

In today’s world, we have access to numerous tools, programs, and seminars to help us discern our priorities to get things done. Productivity is extremely valued, so we create to-do lists that reflect the priorities of the day. Our to-do lists usually include the mundane to the most important. And here in our text, Jesus declares what should be at the top of our to-do list every day, for it is the most important.

Jesus answers the scribe’s question by drawing attention to the Hebrew Scriptures and quoting Deuteronomy 6:4–5. This passage, known as the Shema (the Hebrew word for “hear”), has been in front of the Jewish people for thousands of years, but unfortunately, the religious leaders of the day got distracted by the other 612 commandments and could no longer hear what was the most important.

What would it look like if all God’s people declared and lived out what was most important? I believe we would see what I call unity peace. Jesus first declared in the Shema before the commandment the perfect unity of God – “the Lord our God is one.” Within the perfect unity of God, there is a perfect peace within God. This unity peace should be lived out by all Christ’s followers. We do this in two ways.

First, we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Second, we embrace Jesus’s addition to the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is the most important and is our response to the Gospel. As we love God, we experience his unity and peace. As we love our neighbor, we do so out of God’s unity and peace.

So, as you create your to-do lists for the day, may you not get distracted by the other 612 things on your list. Instead, may they be accomplished out of what is the most important. And may what is most important fill you with God’s unity and peace that you display out of love for your neighbor.
Steve Weisenburger is the regional minister for the NAB Northwest.