Once one in the riveted crowd following Jesus couldn’t help asking him which commandment was the greatest. Decades later he was reported to have replied: To revere God is the first commandment; the second is to love one’s neighbor as yourself, which today we call the golden rule. 

“There’s no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31) Then the man asked Jesus rhetorically, wasn’t loving your neighbor “more than all the whole burnt of offerings and sacrifices?”  You’re so close to the Kingdom of God, Jesus responded.

Human logic tells us that “no man is an island to himself,” a phrase reinforced by Biblical admonitions such as Paul telling the Romans “none of us lives to himself and no one dies to himself.” (14:7)

The Ultimate Paradox

As a servant of God, try isolating yourself like a hermit or try to live free from the influence of others.  

It’s said that attempts to shut away the pious in monasteries and abbeys are doomed to not only disorienting loneliness, but eternal failure.

While having “the appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion” (Col. 2:23) hermits and loners are in clear opposition to what must be the mission of Christians in this troubled, restless upside-down world.

The greatest, most succinct doctrine ever uttered about the importance to us of others was in the sermon given by Jesus on that memorable mount.  In Matthrew (7:12) Jesus taught us the golden rule: “Therefore whatever you want them to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

We teach this golden rule to our children, but too often ignore it ourselves, yet it will save not only our souls, but our Nation and civilization itself if we would only follow it, if not religiously, then practically.

Jesus’ parables provide layers of meaning, enough richness and ambiguity in them that you could spend a lifetime reading them and taking from them different meaning.  They exhort us to think, to ponder.

With his puzzles and paradoxes, Jesus is trusting our discernment, knowing that the Bible includes contrasting approaches on matters ranging from why people suffer to keeping the Sabbath to how we should treat our enemies. As the theologian Kenton Sparks put it, “At face value, Scripture does not seem to furnish us with one divine theology; it gives us numerous theologies.”

But never too numerous to ponder

“I wonder, too,” wrote Pete Wehner on Christ and Christmas, “if Jesus, in telling parables, might have had in mind what Emily Dickinson described in one of her poems:

“Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant/Success in Circuit lies. The Truth must dazzle gradually/Or every man be blind.”

Tom Madden, who besides his forever blogging, is an author of countless published articles and five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available in January on Amazon.   He is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm serving clients worldwide since 1981 and has conducted remarkably successful media campaigns and crisis management for America’s largest companies and organizations.

Peter Wehner (@Peter_Wehner) is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in Ronald Reagan’s, George H.W. Bush’s and George W. Bush’s administrations, is a contributing Opinion writer and the author of “The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.”