"Which is the first of all the commandments?" (Mark 12:28).
What is the first commandment in your life? There can be many. For some, success drives every decision they make. For others, loyalty to family or group defines their daily actions. Or personal honor, or finding approval and avoiding rejection are the red thread that runs through their life stories. This makes sense, for these commandments flow from the primal instinct to survive, to compete, to win.
Jesus, as a faithful Jew, based his entire life and identity on the Great Commandment to love God first and foremost, mind, heart, soul and body, and then to love others as he loved himself. We might say that this was the only commandment he needed, for in keeping it he kept every other law. His life path was based on this simple but radical guide.
His relationship with God and neighbor was also at the heart of his preaching, his acts of healing and mercy, and even the confrontation with official religion that led to his death on the cross. If we love, we will be just, compassionate and truthful. If we put God first, we will never compromise God's will for us as it unfolds in the circumstances of our lives, even if we must sacrifice ourselves for doing what is right in all our relationships.
Jesus lived in the peace and joy of obedience to the commandment of love. Discipleship is our school for learning how to do the same. It is no small challenge to place this commandment ahead of other, deeply imprinted and ego-centered instincts for personal survival, success, approval and loyalty. But if we commit to this, we will know our true selves in the image and likeness of God, who made us to love and be loved.