Now and then I read something in the Bible that leaves me positively dumbstruck. Such as those times someone allegedly speaking for God summarizes what God expects from folks — in both Old and New Testaments. Take Micah, for example. “What does God really want from you?” asks this prophet from the 8th century B.C. The rabbis later counted 613 commandments in God’s law, which they eventually expanded into an encyclopedia-sized set of books known as the Talmud. But Micah narrows the list considerably: “to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God” (Micah 6:6-8).
And what about Jesus? Asked to identify the “greatest” commandment, he did not specify baptism, or church attendance, or helping the poor. He didn’t even quote one of the Ten Commandments. “Love the Lord your God,” said God’s own Son, “with all your heart and soul and mind and strength” (Matt. 22:35-38). Not “obey” God, or “fear” God, or even “serve” God. “Love” God. And the second greatest commandment, said the Savior, is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:39-40). Paul the Apostle echoed Jesus when he said that loving one’s neighbor fulfills the law (Rom. 13:10). Of faith, hope and love, said Paul, “the greatest is love” (1 Cor.13:13). Above all other traits, he urged, we are to put on love (Col. 3:14).
Obviously, the one who seeks to obey these core commands will find that they have enormous implications for life’s daily details. Neither Micah nor Jesus nor Paul suggests otherwise. Still, I marvel at the daring summaries they so boldly set forth. When we become so encumbered with “religion” that we mistreat people, or when we get so caught up in Bible interpretation that it obscures the God who speaks through the Bible, we need to remember these texts. When life seems confusing and moral discernment appears difficult, it is powerfully helpful to remember that God’s chief concerns are not that complicated at all. We have it on the highest authority!