Greatest Commandments: Love

colorful heart

 

Can the greatest commandments also be the hardest? I guess the answer to that question may depend in part on how you view or define greatest and what the word is describing.

Greatest commandments of these
  • Greatest: very best as in greatest racehorse in history.
  • Greatest: most skilled or talented as in artist or composer.
  • Greatest: most challenging as in a test of skill, knowledge, or abilities.
  • Greatest: most crushing as in a defeat.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus to name the greatest commandment, He answered that the first and greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” (Matthew 22:34-40, NKJV). That’s an easy verse to remember, but I suggest to you that the easier a verse seems, the harder it may be to fulfill. Two things make it so.

First, we have the “all yours” to deal with. All means all—100 percent. To get to 100 percent might be achievable on a class assignment or test, but Jesus lists our heart (our desires and passions), our soul (our very being and character), and our mind (our reasoning, logic, and thoughts) as the ALL. In short, our whole self is to be directed toward and anchored to the Lord.

a picture of care

Second, the “all yours” speaks of our love for God. It is a measuring stick for how we love Him. I think this verse makes it clear that Jesus doesn’t want admirers or groupies. He seeks disciples who will hotly pursue Him and His ways. During His ministry, Jesus gave some specific examples of how we show our love of God with our whole being. Here are a few to consider.

  • “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15, NKJV). My first reaction is how well do I prove my love, let alone with my whole being. Then I remember times in my youth. Just like God to Adam, Mom gave me one commandment: change my clothes after getting home from school and before going out to play. Somehow I always forgot or wormed my way out of doing that. That left Mom having to deal with grass-stained knees on new jeans. After thinking about that verse, I wondered how much Mom thought I loved her. I loved her and I believe she knew it, but I could have shown it more.
  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). As I said, we are so easily distracted. How well do we hear the Holy Spirit speaking or reminding us over the sales announcements—especially the limited-time offers on that object you’ve wanted to buy all year?
  • “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:37, NKJV). We may have times when (by our estimate at least) we excel at this. However, this gets tough when two people desire the same thing, but there is only one of the items. Scenes from the movie “Jingle All the Way” come to mind of two men fighting for the same toy—the last toy in the whole metropolis—for their child. Then, this love your neighbor goes beyond tough when a sense of justice or fairness enters the reasoning. Giving in can feel so wrong at the moment.
  • “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another,” (John 13:34, NKJV). Consider the number of church splits if you think this one is easy.
  • “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two,” (Matthew 5:39-41, NKJV). Can He expect anything more than this of us? Well, yes. The next one is like pulling a scab.
  • In response to Peter’s question on how many times he must forgive, Jesus said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven,” (Matthew 18:22, NKJV). There it is. This can be the hardest example of loving God with our whole being. I have had to do a lot of forgiving. I know all the arguments and defensive positions by experience. I’ve tried them, but Jesus doesn’t have it any other way. It’s one of His commandments. If we love Him, we will keep it. If we love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds; we will do it. We may not feel it in the moment, but the Holy Spirit brings the comfort as we do.

Greatest commandments and help to fulfill

We are reminded that Jesus knows our weaknesses and that He supplies what we need—especially in the areas of obeying. We are not alone in our efforts to obey the two great commandments. Jesus said He will never leave us or forsake us. He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us, and comfort us. The resources of the kingdom of God are available to us as we have our hearts so inclined. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are ready to step in to help.

And He teaches us what to ask for

Moreover, we need only to look at the apostolic prayers for further evidence of how the Father wants to help us love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.  Since the apostles wrote what the Holy Spirit inspired, then we must accept that their prayers expressed the heart of their Father.

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:5 “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” We can ask for the Lord to steer us toward Himself and to strengthen our hearts to be able to trust and wait without anxiety.
  • Philippians 1:9-11 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” We have been granted the authority to pray for more of His love, knowledge, and discernment as well as the faith and confidence that He will answer.

And there is more

  • Ephesians 3:16-19 “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Again, here is a free extra-heaping helping of His love.
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Imagine increasing and abounding in that love into a firmly fixed work that presents us blameless in holiness. Are you gobsmacked with that one?

His grand purpose

To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to keep His commandments, we must recognize the spiritual warfare we are undertaking. We will face many types of distractions and opposition but there are great rewards in being faithful. Know also that if we try only in our strength, we will fail. Paul added insight to why all this matters in his letter to the Ephesians. I hope it stirs us all and energizes us in the battle.

Ephesians 3:8-10, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”  What a calling we have received!

We have received His command. He has revealed the purpose. He has taught us how to do it in His strength and not our own. And it’s been prophesied that His Word will not return to Him void, It will do what He set out to do. Greatest commandment, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

Charles Huff

Charles Huff is a Bible teacher, minister, speaker, husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife have held pastors seminars and taught in various churches, including remote mountain churches in the Philippines. His writing has appeared in www.christiandevotions.us, The Upper Room; articles in three anthologies: Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer compiled by James Stuart Bell; Short and Sweet Too and Short and Sweet Takes a Fifth, both compiled by Susan Cheeves King.

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