When the Pharisees heard that He silenced the Sadducees, they came together. One of them, who was a lawyer, tested Him by asking Him, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:34-40
Which commandment is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
And, indeed, this is in accord with God's law which commands us: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God. The LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:4-5).
Jesus also said (Matt. 22:39-40), "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
St. Paul wrote in Romans 13:8-10: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not give false testimony, You shall not covet,' and if there are any other commandments, are summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love works no evil to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (cf. Lev. 19:18).
If we did love the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind, would we worship or serve any other God but the true God? Would we abuse His name and neglect to use it rightly, in ways that give God glory? Would we despise or neglect His Word and the services of His house?
And if we did genuinely love our neighbors as ourselves, would we disobey our parents and others in authority over us? Would we do anything to hurt or harm our neighbor? Would we seek to use our neighbor or his or her spouse to fulfill our own selfish and sinful desires? Would we speak evil of our neighbor or gossip about him? Would we covet or take our neighbor's property or goods?
Therefore, obedience to God's commandments requires true love for God and our neighbor and, without such love, our obedience is nothing but a sham (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1ff.)!
The question is: Do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind? And, do we love our neighbor as ourselves?
We might claim to love God and neighbor, but have we truly kept all of God's commandments in our thoughts, desires, words and deeds? Our failures to keep God's commandments are proof of our failure to love God with all our being and to truly love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves! And without perfect love for God and neighbor, God's law curses and condemns us as guilty sinners, deserving of the eternal punishments of hell (cf. Gal. 3:10; Rom. 3:19-20).
And that, of course, is why we need Jesus. He "was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). He loved and honored His Father in all His thoughts, desires, words and deeds. He prayed and gave thanks even when it appeared that there was not enough (cf. John 611). He loved God's Word so much that, at the age of 12, He stayed behind in Jerusalem to learn more of it from the teachers of God's Law (cf. Luke 2:46). Praying "not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42), "He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8). And Jesus certainly loved His neighbor -- each and every one of us -- because "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
And, our Lord Jesus Christ paid the price and made atonement for our sins that we might have pardon and forgiveness through faith in His name. The Bible tells us that "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2; cf. Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5; Rom. 4:23-25). Therefore, when we confess our sins and look to Him and His cross in faith, He forgives our sins and cleanses us from the guilt of our unrighteousness (cf. 1 John 1:8-9; John 3:14-18; Psalm 32:1-5).
So, when we consider the commandments of God to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves, we see by His commandments our sins, our shortcomings and the just wrath of God upon our sins. But when we see Jesus' perfect obedience, His genuine love for God and neighbor, and His great love for us -- a love which moved Him to take the guilt and punishment for our sins and make full atonement, rising again on the third day -- we look to Him and His perfect sacrifice on the cross in faith, trusting that in Him we have forgiveness and in Him we have life.
O God, grant that we repent of our self-centeredness and lack of love for You and our neighbor and that we look in faith to Christ Jesus and His holy life in our stead and His bitter sufferings and death for our sins and the sins of the world. And, God, grant that we, as a fruit of our faith in Christ Jesus, begin to truly love You and our neighbor. In Jesus' name. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings reflecting the teaching of the Bible may be freely read at https://goodshepherdonline.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]