Jesus’ Amendment of the Great Commandment

Deuteronomy directs us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” However, when Jesus presents us with this commandment in the Gospels, he does so slightly differently. He commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

This was a difference I had not focused on before my friend Mark Osler brought it to my attention in a talk he gave last week at the law school. Each of the four Gospels includes the reference to loving God with all our mind, a phrase that does not appear in Deuteronomy.

Mark asks, in a short paper he wrote (which he posted on his blog the day before last), whether it matters that Jesus added mind to what is engaged when we love God. His answer is, “Of course it does – it directs us to enter into an intellectual relationship with God, which puts us on the job of discernment and the expression of reflected wisdom.” Not an intellectual relationship to the exclusion of a heart-relationship, but in addition to.

For Mark, this is significant with respect to the the issue of rules vs. principles, something about which I’ve written before. He writes, “Rules require obedience. With Jesus, there is a new a clear challenge – the challenge that each of us use reason to be wise in applying God’s principles…The principle that we love our neighbor necessarily requires that we apply our reason before acting, while the rule that we shall not steal often (but not alwasy) can be followed reflexively.”

Part of our loving God is exercising wisdom, in not just blindly following rules, but taking the principles Jesus gives us and wisely (and freely) applying them to our lives.

My thanks for Mark for his thoughts on this subject.


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