The Greatest Commandment
When a lawyer asked Jesus, “...which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus’ response was simple. He cited a passage in Deuteronomy and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matt. 22: 36-38).
Although this passage seems easy to understand on the surface, the true application can be much harder. Some might say love is a feeling, and “I feel like I love God, therefore I am saved.” This expression is often heard from Christians who claim to follow Christ with their words but do not follow Him by their actions. What does it truly mean to love God? How do we accomplish this?
When looking at the psalms, one can see what it means to truly love God. For example, in Psalm 116 the author pours out his heart and expresses why and how he loves God. As Christians, we all know loving God is the most important thing in our lives, but is this how we truly live our lives from day to day? Of course we say we love God, but sometimes we can find ourselves drifting from Him and lacking enthusiasm. These traits, along with sin, stem from the same thing -- a lack of true love for God. When Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God, we first need to know why.
In order to love someone or something, there first has to be a reason. Even if it’s as simple as loving food because it tastes good, there is still that underlying reason. We all know to love God, but why? What has He done for us?
In 1 John 4:9-10 it reads, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Also, verse 19 reads, “We love because He first loved us.” John 3:16 says that God loved us so much that He sent His only son to die a cruel death. God’s only son left His side in heaven not only to be separated, but also to die one of the most excruciating ways possible. God did all of this knowingly so that we could be reconciled with Him. That is true love and should be our example when we love Him. Although we can never do as much as God did for us, we are to do all we can for Him.
Sometimes though we may have good intentions, we do not truly love God the way He demands. In those cases, what is hindering us? The bible has a lot to say about that, but most can fall in one of two categories. The first thing that can hinder our love for God is our love of the world. Too often I have heard the phrase, “I feel like I can’t have fun anymore.” Some, especially new Christians, easily fall into this trap of thinking. They look back on their lives of sin and see the pleasure but conveniently block out all the pain and strife that existed. Some wish to “ride the fence” and try love God and the world, but Jesus has taught us that type of lifestyle is not possible. We will end up loving only one master. This is a very real and dangerous trap that can hinder our love for God.
Another thing that can prevent us from loving God is hating, or not loving, our brother. 1 John 4:11; 20-21 reads, “11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his
brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
It is easy for someone to say, “I love God” because you can’t really see the sincerity of his or her heart. It is harder for one to say I love my brother, because in order to love our brother, we have to show it in our actions (1 John 3:16-18). In order to love our brethren, we have to love each other in Deed and in Truth. If we hate the things of this world and love our brethren, we can then truly love God.
But what does it mean to truly love God?
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Sometimes people look at God’s commandments as a set of rules to hold us back, but that is simply not the case. We should love God’s statutes, just like David in Psalm 19:7-10. Truly loving God is more than just verbally saying a phrase. Truly loving God is to strive after Him and His commandments and to express our love not only in action, but in prayer also.
If we find ourselves struggling to love God, is there something holding us back? Maybe we have hate in our heart for our brother, or maybe the love of sin and the world is holding us back. Whatever it is, we must strive “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19) …so that we can truly fulfill the greatest command: to love God.
- Cody Cox