“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” Matthew 22:36-38
This was a tricky question, at least in the mind of the one who asked. The religious leaders labored over which of God’s laws were the important ones and which ones were not quite as weighty. He was looking for a top ten list to add to the opinions of the other pundits and talking heads of the day. Which would Jesus say? Probably not the one about taking God’s name in vain. Jesus was well-known for calling God His Father. That was borderline blasphemy in the eyes of the religious leaders. And probably not the one about the Sabbath. They had already confronted Him for that on multiple occasions.
So what was it going to be? What was the great commandment?
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. The entire crowd of devout religious leaders around Jesus recited those verses every morning and every evening. Every morning, “You shall love the LORD your God…” Every evening, “You shall love the LORD your God…”
With their 613 laws, with their concern over which was most important, with their score keeping and rule making, they missed the point.
And if we think love is a fuzzy warm feeling of affection, I suspect we might miss the point as well. If love is a feeling, it would be unfair for God to command it, so love must be something more. And it is. Love is active devotion and service driven by adoration and reverence. In simple two-dimensional terms, it is obedience, but not the robotic stimulus and response kind. Obedience is a desire to bring every part of ourselves into agreement with God’s expressed desires and standards.
It is significant that the command includes the word all repeated three times. Any division or dilution of our love for God is idolatry, pure and simple. It is a very high standard. The first two of the Ten Commandments deal with idolatry, but Jesus chose to wrap them with love. His audience understood rule-keeping. He wanted them to understand relationship.
How do we love God with our heart?
Start with the emotions. Do the expressions of our emotions honor and reflect our devotion to God? What about fear and envy and anger? Are they more prevalent than joy, hope or peace?
Then examine desires and longings. Do we want what drives us to God or what pulls us away? Are our goals self-centered or God-centered? Do we have an undercurrent of dissatisfaction or entitlement?
How do we love God with our soul?
Start with your decisions. Are they made with a consideration for His will? Are your choices Godly? Do they confirm or deny His prominence in your life?
Then consider your innermost self. Do we love God with the part of ourselves that no one else ever sees? Are there things that we attempt to hide, things we don’t trust Him with.
How do we love God with our mind?
Start with your thoughts. What occupies your imagination? What lingers as you try to fall asleep?
Then consider your assumptions. Do those mirror God’s words and character? Are there prejudices and biases wielding influence?
However, simply knowing the great commandment isn’t worth much. The Pharisees and lawyers knew it. Remember, they recited it every day. When we act on it, when we love God with all of our heart and soul and mind … that’s when it becomes great.