One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" (Mark 12:28)
The scribe asked a reasonable question. Pharisees, priests, religious lawyers and teachers in Israel listed 613 laws in Jewish Scriptures – and they wrapped each one in layers of Rabbinic commentary to codify the proper way to obey each law. Jews could find answers to such routine questions as how to dress, what to eat, when to pray, how much to tithe, when to worship, and what kind of sacrifices they had to offer. No wonder the scribe asked the Lord, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
The Lord didn’t hesitate to answer: Love God and love your neighbor.
I sometimes wish the Lord had answered differently. It’s way easier to follow rules than it is to love. Over the years I've learned to pray the right prayers, genuflect correctly, mouth the Nicene Creed with ease, sing the hymns with decorum . . . But to love God more than I love myself, and to love the person in the pew beside me, or the family living across the street, or the woman working in the office down the hall . . . well, that’s a different story. Love requires I give myself. Humble myself. Count others more important than myself.
Following rules about when and how is so much easier.