When most people think of bringing the essentials or basics on a trip, they think about the things we can’t live without, like food and water. For some, they think about toilet paper or soap. Everyone can probably think of some items they believe are essential to survival that others might not consider essential.
Last week I posted the first part of The Christian Journey which was about Preparation. This time we will talk about the next important step in the Christian Journey, which is making sure to bring the most important and essential things with us.
For the Christian Journey, our job of having to figure out what is essential is a lot easier and a lot more clear than you might think. Jesus has made it pretty clear what the essentials are.
In many situations people asked Jesus questions, one of those being what the most important commandment was. Often it seemed as though they just wanted to do the bare minimum or trap Jesus, but I don’t believe the answer Jesus gave suggests bare minimum as much as it suggests essential. Jesus says that loving God and loving our neighbor are the two most important commandments. These two items are essentials in our Christian Journey.
Before I continue to talk about these two topics, let me share with you the scripture I am referring to.
The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Why are these the most important?
Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength
This covers multiple commandments, all having to do with loving God. You shall have no Gods before him, you shall not worship anything else, you shall not misuse his name, you will keep the sabbath holy. All of these things have to do with loving God.
3 You shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
You shall have no other Gods before him is an action. The things you do indicate what you believe is most important. Worshiping other things is something you show by committing an act, an act of worship. He mentions bowing, creating idols, and worship. All three parts of that commandment are actions. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord our God. We cannot misuse his name without committing an act. The act of speaking is not what he is referring to, it isn’t talking that is important, but rather specific words he does not want said. Keeping the 7th day holy is also an action. If you say you will not work on the sabbath, but go ahead and work on it anyway, it doesn’t matter what you said. What we have said is invalidated by our actions when those actions betray those words.
These commandments require two separate but equal actions, to say or not say something, and to do or not do something. God of course expects us to teach others his commandments (say something), and he expects us to keep those commandments (do something). It isn’t enough to say we love God, we must also show we love God.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.
Love our neighbor as we love ourselves
The second of these greatest commandments also covers multiple of the ten commandments.
Exodus 20: 13-17
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
All of these things are acts against our neighbor. Killing someone is an act against our neighbor. Committing adultery is an act against our husband or wife, who was once our neighbor. Stealing from someone is an act against our neighbor. Wanting what our neighbor has is like actually taking what it mentions in the final commandment. Jesus talks about just looking at another person lustfully is committing adultery in our hearts. Wanting what our neighbor has is what leads to taking what they have. Having a thought about desiring something and considering what life would be like with it, is an action.
There are many among us who believe saying we love God and saying we love our neighbor is enough. There is one big difference between what God expects and what those individuals among us believe. God expects you to talk by teaching others God’s commandments. God also expects you to keep those commandments, which means to obey them by our actions, not just by our words.
So why are these the most important, most valuable, and most essential items on our Christian Journey? We cannot keep on the path without loving God, and we cannot keep God’s commandments without loving each other. If we do not love God by words and actions, we are not on the path to his Kingdom. If we do not love each other, we do not keep his commandments, and therefore we show we do not truly love God.
On the path when we are faced with unexpected obstacles, one of those obstacles may have to do with our neighbor or be a test of our faith. If we love God and our neighbor, it doesn’t matter what obstacle comes before us. With these two items we will stay on the path and continue moving forward on our Christian Journey.