Many people’s answer to this question is “the one that you’re not keeping.” But I disagree with this. I think it’s too simple of an answer. There is, as far as I know, no one on earth who is committing only one sin, or breaking one single commandment. Most of us commit a dozen sins before we leave the house each day, and I don’t think I’m even exaggerating. Consider how many different ways there are to sin. We could forget to pray. We could be rude to someone. We could forget to ask for a blessing upon our food. We could lie. We could get impatient with someone. Human beings commit sins so easily that it’s easy to overlook just how many sins we commit in the course of a day. And notice how I say ‘we,’ not ‘you,’ because I’m just as bad, if not worse, as anyone.
It’s funny when people say, “I’m not perfect.” It’s not as though anyone is confused. And the implication is often, “But I’m close enough that I can see why you were wondering.” If I put a positive spin on this whole issue, maybe it’s because human beings really do not want to sin because we realize how bad it is. And so we pretend that we are better than we are.
I think the underlying problem with saying the most important commandment to keep is the one we’re not keeping, is that we are intellectualizing something that should be considered from a spiritual perspective. Believe it or not, I used to teach Sunday School for my former church. One day, if I am remembering correctly, someone asked me why I didn’t play games during the lessons that I taught. The reason that I gave is that if we play a game such as what does a certain scripture mean, or where can we find something in the Bible, it becomes a competition of the mind, rather than a spiritual lesson perceived by the heart. I think this works against what we go to Sunday School for, where supposedly we are trying to feel the Spirit of God, not prove how smart we are. The answer, “The one that we are not keeping” is the same problem for me. I think it’s a quick, clever answer, but not one that stands up to close scrutiny or examination.
So what do I think the most important commandment is? I think it’s simply to be as nice to people as possible. If we want to say something rude, we should practice self-discipline and not say it (much, much easier said than done for the vast majority of us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a true principle). Recently, I had a run in with a person who said he was going to help me move and he didn’t bother showing up and he didn’t bother telling me he wasn’t going to show up. He merely told our mutual friend who was also coming to help. And he lied and said that I had indicated that it was an easy move. Such an action really displays a lack of character, in my opinion. And it goes against everything that a supposedly religious person believes. I believe there is a scripture that says something about “on this hangs the law and the prophets.” I might be wrong, but it seems to me that this scripture refers to being nice and kind to people because really, what else affects people on such a large scale every single day? We can talk about how much we love the Lord, how much superficiality bothers us, how society is on the wrong track, blah blah blah. But if we don’t back it up in those small moments when someone needs our help and we agree to do so, then we are not performing the most basic of actions that constitute being a religious person. Or even a human being in general. A person doesn’t need to be religious to be nice and kind, but if a person says they are religious, they should make an extra effort to display those particular qualities.
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