Bracket Theology

March Madness — we’re in full swing now. By the time you read this post the NCAA basketball tournament will be down to the final 16 teams out of a beginning roster of 68. I wonder what it would be like if the last 2 teams left out of those 68 teams packed it in and went home instead of playing the final game. Would basketball fans everywhere be OK living with the unsettled issue of knowing which team was the greatest? Probably not. I know I wouldn’t be satisfied.

Which is kind of how I feel when thinking about the Greatest Commandments. Jesus was asked which one commandment was the greatest and instead of identifying one answer, he gave two — love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love others as yourself.  Jesus himself gave both commandments the title of “greatest” so there can be no question they are both indeed the greatest.

But to me, having 2 greatest commandments is sort of like having an unplayed championship game. This has always bugged me a little.  And honestly, as strange as this might sound,  I have always pitted one against the other in terms of which one really is greater. I’ve always considered one to be a little greater, maybe even just a little more powerful, than the other. It’s the one of loving your neighbor as yourself.

This is completely due to the fact that on the surface it’s easy for me to see the power in loving others as yourself.  And the New Testament completely leads me down this path.  The gospels, Paul’s letters, and the other disiples’ writings are full of examples and instructions about loving your neighbor. Not to mention Jesus’ very life and death, an excerise in not only living but also dying for others, is a template for living our lives. Jesus himself said there is no greater love anyone could have than to give their life for their friends.  So with all the emphasis the New Testament clearly places on loving others, who could blame me for thinking this way? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)

Not to downplay the importance of loving God. No doubt loving God is of utmost importance. Being a Christian and loving others is pretty much impossible without this love. Of course, loving our heavenly Father is essential to our Christian lives. But even so, I’ve always failed to equal it in power to its sibling Greatest Commandment, loving others as yourself. 

That is, until now. Come back tomorrow and find out why. 

Live The Mission,