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Jesus and the (Other) Greatest Commandment 
Gregg R. Zegarelli, Esq.


Many people—if not most people—believe that Jesus was wise. 

Some people also believe that Jesus is God or a prophet, each according to his or her own personal revelation, a matter well-beyond the secular scope here.

But, as a matter of secular wisdom, apart from religion or faith, as the case may be, Jesus shares teachings consistent with many other wise persons, from many cultures, throughout time.  Wise teachings, expressed as could be understood, appreciated and accepted for the respective culture of context.

As part of his "yoke is easy and burden light" standard, Jesus stated the greatest commandment was simply, "to love."  A rule easy enough to express. 

One interpretation might be that perfect love (not almost perfect) cannot exist in the same space with judgment, and, without judgment, there cannot be condemnation, and without judgment and condemnation (particularly of another person's soul, a matter often believed to be reserved to God alone), people would live happily together.  Basically, the burden of the rule gets lighter, the more we slough off all of the qualifiers and get to its essence.

However, as a matter of social secular administration, the problem with this rule is not its intention, but its practicality.  Love is a matter of heart, naturally freely to be given, such as Respect, and Admiration.  It simply must come freely from inside out, never by force from outside in.  A king can compel us to kneel, but a king cannot make us to love.  A king can compel our body, but a king cannot compel our heart or mind.  What we think and feel is our ultimate exclusive human possession.

As a matter of social secular administration, the "Law" of American society does not deal in love.  The Law deals with action (or inaction when there is a duty to act).  If a man should sit in a room seething with a mean, vile and hateful heart, it is the personal business of that man, until he should act. 

The great Thomas Jefferson made this point when confirming the necessity of secular social acceptance of various beliefs in the United States in his Notes on Virginia, 1782 ("QUERY XVII The different religions received into [Virginia]?"):

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Speech and thought are free, but action is different; regulation of non-injurious conduct, says our beloved Jefferson, is simply not a legitimate power of government.  Jefferson's free-thinking society of mature adults living together in peace, while holding contrary beliefs with mutual respect, deals only in the injurious action, not the mind.  Therefore, using derivatives of the Jeffersonian legal framework, the Law deals in what we do, not what we love. 

If the most evil-intentioned man does a good act, the Law will ignore it.  But, if the best-intentioned man does a bad act, the Law will condemn it.  Indeed, the Law will scrutinize the act of someone parking a car in the middle of a freeway to save the ducks.  The Law, at least so far in this American Experiment, deals in how people act, not how people think. 

Indeed, the second Civil War in America may have freed the human body from bondage, but it was the first Civil War in America—the Revolution—that freed people's minds from bondage.

Now, there are certainly more than one "other greatest" wise commands by Jesus, so perhaps I have hyperbolized the title.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a great secular commandment, shared with the earlier Confucius and Socrates, and many other wise teachers from East and West.  However, this commandment is still abstract.

As an attorney, my personal favorite is the following; it is simple, direct, and, best of all, it is concrete:

"Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes'..."

[One: 511; Matthew 5:37-38].  In speaking about oaths being unnecessary [actually, Jesus said saying anything more is from the 'evil one'...], Jesus simply said to, "do what you say." 

As an attorney, I am convinced that this is the easiest secular commandment to make the world a better place.  It is such a simple and obvious fix to so many social problems. 

I love this commandment because of its concrete specificity, like my father simply saying to me, "To feel better, you shall do 50 push ups and 50 sit-ups every morning."  No wiggle room.

When children are young, they might say, "Well, I didn't promise..." as if that was a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Or, they might say, "Really, I promise I will..." as if that extra statement added a binder to the future commitment.  We should watch it closely.  If a child is taught that this is an acceptable standard, it implies that "Yes" means "Maybe," and, of course, that is a very bad seed for the character of a child, or any human being.

Consistent with the wise teaching of Jesus, it seems we are to consider whether children (and/or other human beings) should be corrected to understand that each affirmation bears a silent implied, "and I promise." 

For a person of excellent character, as Jesus suggests, saying outwardly the extra words, "I promise" is completely immaterial.  A person of deepened character simply does what he or she says.  And, for this, we call the person, "honorable," "reliable," "dependable," and "committed to task."  For a better real-world, it should be the standard by implication.  At least for me, I tell the children for whom I am responsible, "I don't want to hear anything about promises.  If you say it, do it.  It's that simple."

In practicing law for almost 30 years, "Yes = Maybe" is everywhere.  If you don't see it now, be vigilant and you'll see it, too.

"I will be there at 6:00 p.m. (I promise)."  "I will follow-up.  (I promise.)"  "I will deliver on May 1st (I promise)."  "I will pay net 30 (I promise)."  "I will call you for lunch (I promise)."  If we add the "I promise" in our own minds every time we make a statement about future action, we can see how or if it affects our habits. 

No one is perfect, but that is not the point.  The point is that the internal statement to ourselves reinforces our commitment to the other person and creates weighty importance for the words we choose to say.

Like the 50 push-ups and sit-ups, it gets easier the more we do it.  Training begins with appreciation of the context, training is partially completed when the word "try" begins to be used to place the other person on notice of a "maybe" condition, and training is complete when every statement is performed as stated, and the word  "try" is neither used nor required (as that "try" condition usually will not be satisfied without accomplishing the thing itself; that is, "I will try, I promise," when perfectly promised, is a condition of no meaning: the thing most often could and would be done).

To let our "yes" simply mean "yes."  To have the discipline, and the internal fortitude, simply to do what we say.  To choose words carefully.  This is a fundamental rule of cooperative social interaction.

Love's got nothing to do with it.  It's about action, and what we actually do unto others.  If the others do the same unto us, well, then perhaps Providence might incidentally grace our relationships with a touch of mutual love, admiration and respect, freely adduced from our hearts and our minds.

                                                                                —Gregg Zegarelli, Esq.


Gregg Zegarelli is Managing Shareholder of Technology & Entrepreneurial Ventures Law Group, PC.  Gregg is nationally rated as 10/10 "superb" and has more than 25 years of experience working with entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes, including startups, INC. 500, and publicly traded companies.  He is a frequent lecturer, speaker and faculty for a variety of educational and other institutions.  © 2015 Gregg Zegarelli, Esq.

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