The Didache 2 – The Way of Love

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you.

What lies at the heart of the way of life? Love.

It seems that the import of this, which permeates the New Testament and all we know of the early church, is easy for us to miss today. In part it’s because we miss what Jesus has actually done because we have not risen with the Shema Israel on our lips nor retired for sleep with it lingering on our breath. I was always aware of some connection, but didn’t really grasp it myself until I encountered Scot McKnight’s exploration of what he calls the Jesus Creed. The Sh’ma Yisrael, drawn from Deuteronomy 6 was and is the central creed of Judaism. At least twice a day, every observant Jews prays the Shema.

If you’ve never heard it prayed liturgically, I invite you to pause and listen and soak in the Hear, O Israel!

It so permeates life that you find it in popular music. I found this song beautiful and found a version to share with some English subtitles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyXM5QMWnFo

Only as you understand the depth and the centrality of the Shema within the life of Israel will you grasp how radical it was for Jesus to change it. He was not giving two random prooftexts from the Torah as external commandments we must perform. Rather, he had the chutzpah to add another line to the central creed of Judaism, revealing how to fulfill that creed. This is the Shema of Jesus.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind, and with all your strength. And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

If we have eyes to see, it’s written throughout the New Testament Holy Scriptures, shaping everything in them. And we see it here, in the Didache, as the foundational declaration of the way of life. The Didache links this to what is often called the negative form of the Golden Rule. The Gospels tend to focus on the positive form. But I would say that both are simply natural outworkings of the Shema of Jesus. If you love God and each human being you meet, you will not do to them the things you do not want done to you and you will do for them the things you would have done for you. When that is not true, it is unlikely that you love them. And if you cannot love them, how can you love God?

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