One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (NLT)
One of the great misunderstandings of the Ten Commandments and other rules laid down in Scripture is that they are designed to suffocate us, to limit us, to drain us of freedom. And so our faith is seen as a series of “Thou shalt nots”.
In fact, the Ten Commandments could be termed the Ten Freedoms. The various rules and regulations are designed with one overarching aim in mind. Which is to help us love God and love one another. This is what Jesus says is the greatest commandment. All other commandments and rules stem from this goal: the goal of love.
So when we are told not to commit adultery, or to refrain from lying or coveting, it is not because God wants to make life miserable for us. Rather he wants to free us to be the people he made us to be. Those “negatives” encourage us to embrace the “positives”. Those prohibitions help us expand the horizons of our human lives.
We don’t get to love God and others by simply indulging ourselves. We can only say “yes” to such love if we have said “no” to that which threatens or destroys such love.