By Devon Dick
Earlier this week, I was at a church in New York where a Sunday school tutor was advocating teaching the Ten Commandments as a means of getting young people to behave better. It was a discordant suggestion based on the general thrust of the lesson, which was claiming that persons become Christians by exercising faith in Jesus the Christ rather than by doing any good works.
In addition, the teacher claimed it was no longer necessary to offer animal sacrifices in order to be in a right relationship with God. Therefore, I suggested that to be consistent, it would be better to promote the two greatest commandments that Jesus identified rather than the Ten Commandments.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40 that to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" was the first and greatest commandment.
And where do we find these two commandments? In Deuteronomy 6:5 and in Leviticus 19:18. Interestingly, both commandments are in the Law, but neither can be found explicitly in the Ten Commandments!
Jesus chose to select two commandments from the more than 600 in the Law. Moses' top 10 do not make Jesus' shortlist of two. Mark's version of this incident has a different summary, which reads, "There is no other commandment greater than these."
It is, therefore, surprising that the Mosaic Ten Commandments are far more popular than the two Jesus identified as the greatest commandments. Christians push the Decalogue, given under Law, rather than the top two which Jesus identified from the hundreds of commandments. Why is this so?
It could be because of deference to Judaism, which gave birth to Christianity. Christians do not want to break the link with the past.
Apparently, some Christians would rather ignore what Jesus said and go back to what Moses said. This is rather strange, and is akin to using Moses' directive on divorce rather than what Jesus is reported to have said about it.
One mantra covers all
The other possible reason for the preference of Moses' Ten over Jesus' two could be that the Mosaic Law has the dos, don'ts and specifics, whereas Jesus' two call for applying principles to every given situation. In other words, can our beliefs and practices demonstrate that we love God in totality, and do they show that we love others equally as we love self? This is the real test!
How do we apply these Jesus principles to every context? The truth is, even if we follow the Ten Commandments to the last letter, there are beliefs and practices which are not covered in them. However, every belief and practice can be subjected to the principle of the two greatest commandments.
Therefore, when the German government and court haggle over whether circumcision should be allowed, Christians should remember that one of the signs of the old covenant, according to Genesis 17:10-11, was the ritual of circumcision. And Paul, writing to the Galatians, claimed we are no longer under the need for circumcision to be saved.
Jamaica and the world could be a peaceful place if we all adopted as our mantra, 'love God fully and love and treat our fellow citizens as we treat ourselves'.
The Rev Devon Dick is an author and pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church. Email feedback to email@example.com.