Living with rules…loving God, loving others, loving yourself.



Loathe them or love them make up so much of our experience of life. In some ways (all ways?) rules and their existence and adherence too, or otherwise, regulate our daily being.


Amidst complexity, joy, brokenness, times of fulfillment, times of sadness. Times of plenty and indeed times of scarcity. Rules matter…don’t they?

Our Gospel reading from Mark Chapter 12 verses 28 to 34, sees a Jewish teacher of the law, genuinely and earnestly ask Christ which law, which rule, which commandment is the most important when seeking to follow God. And this teacher of the Law knew a lot about rules, commandments and how he and others were supposed to live as good Jews. Here’s is an explanation from outlining how this Jewish scholar and teacher understood rules and their importance…

“In Jewish law, there are 613 commandments, precepts or mitzvot. They include positive commandments, to perform an act (mitzvot aseh), and negative commandments, to abstain from certain acts (mitzvot lo taaseh). The negative commandments number 365, which coincides with the number of days in the solar year, and the positive commandments number 248, said to be the number of bones and main organs in the human body (Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b–24a).”

613 commandments or “rules” to follow in order to be Jewish. That’s a lot.

Whatever our religion (or lack of) each of us knowingly and unknowingly face “rules”.

Which makes Christ’s response to the teacher’s genuine question “Of all the commandments, which is the greatest?” (Mark 12 v 28) so liberating in its simplicity and directness.

Here’s this Sunday’s Gospel reading. As you read, imagine yourself as a bystander listening into the exchange between Christ and the “teacher of the law”.

The Gospel reading.

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.[a] 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.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 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.


There is no lack of challenge (let’s be very honest) in following God. Subscribing to a faith. Being or not being orthodox in the application of that faith through our everyday lived reality.

The challenge is not just because we are necessarily required to abide by 613 precepts as understood by the teacher of the law in this Gospel encounter,

rather life is to be lived, not by a rule book but as a response..

to God’s love.

In answer to the earnest teacher’s question as to the greatest commandment, Christ tells him that there are not 613 “rules” to abide by, but two. Just two.

Rule 1:

We are to love God with our very being…

Our “heart”.

“All our soul”.

“All our understanding…”

and “all our strength”.

Rule 2:

We are to love our neighbour,

As we do ourselves.

“Thanks Jesus”. “That sounds good to me Jesus”. “Now, where the heck do I actually start? Jesus?”

I do not mean to be facetious in posing the above questions to Christ Himself, far from it, but it strikes me that the further I journey in following the Messiah, I do often wonder if love of God and love of others is radically underpinned by love of ourselves.

Not in a “look at me world, haven’t I got it all sorted” type of self love, rather a love of self in the knowledge that God’s love, grace, original goodness to me and in me comes from a deeper awareness and appreciation of who I am, who I am becoming. And what makes me tick (or not).

A healthy self regard, self love and self appreciation as a response to the global love of the Father, revealed in the Son, maybe just maybe allows for love of the other and of God to find in each of us its fullest expression.

And live closer to the spirit and application of the two rules.


Picture courtesy of @savbrown

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