There are multiple instances in the Christian Gospels where Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest. You can read these different accounts in Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31, and Luke 10:25-28. Here is the story as Matthew tells it:
34When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
I understand Jesus’ teaching to mean that every law in scripture and every word of encouragement from the prophets to live rightly may be summed up in the actions of loving God and loving our neighbors.
This love that Jesus is talking about isn’t romantic love. The Greek word is agapé, and it means self-sacrificing love. It’s the love that asks us to put another’s needs above our own. And, when Jesus says we are to love our neighbor, he’s not simply talking about the person who lives next door to us. He’s talking about all the people we encounter, known and unknown.
I’ve been thinking about this teaching of Jesus’ as I’ve heard the debate about mask wearing in these days of COVID-19. I’ve heard people justify their refusal to wear a mask in a few different ways: wearing a mask in some way infringes on their personal freedom; they aren’t worried about catching COVID, so they won’t wear a mask; and/or the government doesn’t have the right to tell others what to do.
I believe that kind of thinking is completely counter to Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbor. My primary reason for wearing a mask is to protect other people, in case I have unknowingly caught COVID. For me, wearing a mask is one way I can live fully into Jesus commandment to love my neighbor. Whatever your faith tradition, I hope you’ll join me.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.