Listen!

I have always loved the Olympic Games. It is fun to watch all the the media attention that is given to the athletes prior to the first competition. While listening to the promos and background stories one day, I discovered an acronym that threw me off for a minute. I may be the last person in the world to know what it meant. When Simone Biles was described as the “goat” of women’s gymnastics, I was a little offended on her behalf. How could that commentator have possibly compared this incomparable athelete to a barnyard animal? The next day I saw it in print, and I realized that it was spelled G.O.A.T. And of course you already know what I had to learn from Google: G.O.A.T. stands for “greatest of all time.” I guess we didn’t recognize G.O.A.T.s in the marching band when I was growing up. At least not that kind of goat.

Jesus was once asked about which of the commandments was the G.O.A.T. In the twelfth chapter of Mark, he encounters a legal expert who is hoping to trip him up with a trick question. The people around them are leaning in to hear which of the Ten Commandments Jesus will pick. But watch what Jesus does:

Mark 12 (Common English Bible)

28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Jesus responds by quoting the ”Shema” from the book of Deuteronomy. The word ”shema” means to listen. There is a special meaning in this: not only does he give them the traditional faith prayer of his people, which commands them to listen, but he is also instructing the people around him to listen as he clarifies the greatest commandment. Here is the full text of the Shema:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 New Revised Standard Version).

Jesus instructs them to listen up! First and foremost, love God with all your heart, and soul, and strength.

Then he continues:

 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Jews familiar with Scripture would hear the echo of Leviticus:

 Leviticus 19:18; “Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (ERV)

Jesus’ response is a beautiful rendering of the Ten Commandments in two statements. The first statement blends the first through the fourth commandments, which address our relationship with God. The second statement combines the fifth through the tenth commandments, which instruct us on how to act toward one another.

Even the legal expert was impressed!

32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

In the end, loving God with all that you have and loving your neighbor with all that you are pretty much covers everything. These commandments truly are the G.O.A.T. and we are called to live by them every day.

What can you do today to share your love of God with someone? Where is God calling you to reach out to a neighbor in love and service?

Wherever God leads you, go and do it. Then you can be a goat, too.

Dolphin Tales by Michelle Robertson

Sassy Jesus

I like Sassy Jesus. When Jesus was confronted by the ever-irritating Pharisees, he often returned a sassy response. I think he had just so much patience to give to these conversations and preferred to be out doing important things like healing blind folks and feeding the 5,000. Yet to his credit, he gave them his attention anyway.

Do you suppose his compassion for them made him want to respond in the hope that one or two of them would see him for who he was? Did he look at them as lost sheep in need of his shepherding? I can say that in times that I have been attacked, I did not look so graciously upon my attackers. There is a lesson in this.

In any case, every time they came at him thinking that they could trip him up, their efforts fell flat each time. You can’t trick the Son of God, boys.

Matthew 22 (The Message)

34-36 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

When Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and consolidates them into two overriding commands, he effectively puts the Pharisees in their place yet again. Notice the care he takes to explain that these two great commands are the pegs upon which all ten hang…and not only all the commandments, but EVERYTHING in God’s law AND the Prophets hangs from these two statements. Remember that eventually the priests and scribes developed a system of 613 laws. Sassy Jesus was making a statement about what was really important in contrast with what was minutiae.

These two rules for living are as relevant for us today as they were 2,000 years ago. Think of your life and your actions and ask yourself:

Do you love God with all your passion, prayer and intelligence?

Do you love others as much as you love yourself?

Is your life a reflection of these two things?

We need to own the fact that there is a little Pharisee in all of us. If the things we say, post, share, and think are different than what God intends for us, we are just as flawed as the Pharisees.

Today is a new day. Hold these commandments close to your heart and do everything you can to reflect them in your behavior. You are the only Jesus someone may see today. Act like it.

New Day by Michelle Robertson