Matthew 22:37-40. 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
When asked what commandment in scripture is the greatest, or which one should we all be focused on, Jesus says love. Love God. Love your neighbor. These two commandments are equal and they are everything. Why? Because we were made to love.
Jesus’ answer is not a new revelation. The command to love God comes from Deuteronomy 6:5 (day 41). The Hebrews repeated this command every single day morning and night. It was the center of their religious life. And the command to love neighbor is also nothing new. It comes from Leviticus 19:18 (day 37).
But here, for the first time, Jesus puts these two separate commands in sequence. The second commandment follows the first commandment. Loving God will always be revealed as loving neighbor. And even further, Jesus puts these two commands side by side. Love your neighbor is equal to love your God.
Jesus is showing us that love of neighbor is the goal of life. It is the goal of all God’s love for you, and all your love for God. We love God by loving all who surround us. All who come near. Love for God makes everyone a neighbor, even an enemy.
All of this should be liberating. Jesus makes life so simple. Do two things (which are actually only one thing), Love God and love those around you. The end. All of the law and prophets are now fulfilled. All of scripture has just been obeyed. You did it!
Um…not so fast. Obviously we have a huge problem here. These two simple commands have proven themselves impossible to obey. Especially when we see that God is after our hearts, souls, and minds, not only our good behavior. He wants our being not just our doing. Our affections, not just our actions.
But love as law can only describe love. It can’t produce love. In fact, God’s old covenant law was never intended to produce what it demanded. The law was given to reveal our sin, our inability to love, our failure to love. No one has loved God with all their heart, soul, and mind. No one has loved their neighbor as themselves.
Except one. Jesus. He alone loved God with all of his being. He alone loved his neighbor as he loved himself. He alone fulfilled the law. In fact, the law is a description of Christ’s eternal life. Jesus didn’t start loving when he came to earth. He’d been eternally loving God (the Father) and his neighbor (the Spirit). In creating us and in becoming one of us, Jesus has brought his love of God into his new neighborhood – earth. And he has brought his eternal love into his new neighbors – us.
Which is why Jesus will look at his disciples before he dies and say these words:
John 13:34. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Wait, what makes this commandment new? It sounds like the same old law that Jesus was talking about earlier.
The new part is Jesus himself – as I have loved you. Jesus isn’t just saying follow my example of love. He’s pointing them to the cross. He just finished washing the disciples’ feet. How has Jesus loved us? He loved us by cleansing us with his own life. By exchanging our filth for his purity. He loved us by his death and resurrection. He loved us, his neighbors, as himself when he joined his life to ours in one body.
“To live is Christ” means love for God and love for neighbor now has a power source – the indwelling love of Jesus that fills us with all of his self-giving love. Now our duty is our delight. Christ’s command is our joy. The more we trust the Father’s love for us, the more we will naturally love. The more we embrace that Jesus has loved us, the more we will choose to love one another.
What is your power source for loving? Are you trying to muster up love for God and others from within yourself?
You in Christ
In Christ you are fully and perfectly loved by God first. How does this empower your love for God and others?
Christ in you
Love one another. Can you obey this from a pure heart today? How?
Playlist: Songs of God’s deep love for us and our deep love for God.