The enormity of this Command is of such scope and magnitude that it is impossible to overstate. If Love is the first Command, this surely represents one of the most important dimensions of Love itself. Indeed, unity with our fellow man is one of Love's significant visible expressions. If we would "Be righteous," this is where it begins.
It has been mentioned before that Jesus occasionally uses overstatement and exaggeration to get his point across. This is obviously again the case here. No one seriously believes this Command is to be obeyed literally. None of Jesus' own disciples, to our knowledge, obeyed this Command as it stands, nor did Jesus expect them to.
The Commands of Jesus seem to come in two broad categories: Those that are straightforward and relatively simple to obey...and those that are impossible to obey.
There are fewer more perplexing, misunderstood, misappropriated Commands in the Gospel than this. How many disappointments have been based on grandiose prayers for healing, for financial provision, for restored relationships, and for thousands of other good and worthy things... that have not happened? We have all experienced the ache, frustration, and confusion of unanswered prayer.
It is sometimes difficult to know how to live in the practical reality of Jesus' admonition in the latter half of Matthew 6: Consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. They neither sow nor reap, yet your heavenly father cares for them. So don't worry about what you shall eat or drink. We are all familiar with his words. But do they not often sound just a little too idealistic?
Jesus does not stop with commanding belief in general, not even belief in God. He zeroes in with yet more precision and specificity by also commanding belief in him. This further dismisses the notion that Christianity may be equated with being a kind person and trying to do good in the world. Those are good things. But they are not Christianity.
We find ourselves looking at a series of Commands subject to widely varied interpretation as we attempt to navigate the conundrum between the temporal and spiritual components of the Christian life - Love God, Love man... Give to the poor, Believe.
From probably the most down-to-earth, if we may even phrase it thus, a most unspiritual among Jesus' Commands, we turn to one of the most spiritual: Believe.
Observe how much of Jesus' time was spent among the infirm, sick, destitute, crippled, blind, and demon-possessed.
Imbalance has always been the Achilles heel of Christianity. It might truly be said that imbalance in following the Commands of Jesus is responsible for the greater share of the unbelief in the world. Does anyone doubt that if every Command of Jesus had been sacrificially lived by his followers, not only would the world have been largely converted to Christianity, life would be a good and pleasant thing for most of its inhabitants. There is enough food, enough water, enough provision, enough happiness, enough love for all.