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> Christianity F.A.Q. > Which religious rule is most important to follow?

Which of the religious rules is the most important to follow?

The Old Testament contains over 800 laws and commandments, some large and some small, all designed to help the Hebrew people live faithfully and successfully in the Promised Land of Canaan. In addition, the prophets articulated expectations that don't take the form of rules but clearly were meant to guide human behavior.

The Ten Commandments were intended as an overarching framework, as was the call to justice. Thus, a holy people would have one God, worship him only, would not engage in murder, adultery, theft, false witness, dishonoring of parents, and would observe the sabbath. The prophet Micah put it this way: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Jesus, in turn, contravened or redirected many of the laws of Torah, such as the “law of retaliation” and rules on observing sabbath. In his teaching, two commandments stood above all others: love God, and love your neighbor.

It is never enough to prowl Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to find individual statutes for addressing critical issues. For one thing, from a Christian perspective, Torah has been superseded by the teachings and ministry of Jesus. For another, the prophetic witness in the Old Testament offers better guidance for some modern issues than does a specific rule designed to help a nomadic people cross Sinai. Finally, the laws governing Israel's early years are grounded in conditions and assumptions that no longer apply to us, such as patriarchal norms governing the roles of women.


Tom Ehrich

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