Image via Author, Bighorn Range, Wyoming
As identified in the last post, Jesus identified the foremost or greatest commandment as the command to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There are good reasons for Jesus to say this, good reasons for us to take these words seriously. This greatest commandment to love our God with an overriding devotion, affection, and life intention is based upon the following truths.
First, our God is worthy of our overriding devotion, affection, and life intention. Only He is worthy. He is everything that is worthy of this kind of love and devotion. We as His creatures and even more so His children owe this kind of love and devotion to Him alone.
Second, we were created to give Him this overriding devotion, affection, and life intention. All other loves that rival this one will be born of our rebellion to our God, not out of our devotion to Him. Because we were made for this relationship with our God, this the only relationship that will satisfy us at the core of our being.
It is also the love relationship that orients all other love relationships. It is the relational “pole star” that guides all other loves away from selfishness and into selfless loving. The words of Jesus that seem so hard are intended to benefit all our love relationships, moving them toward the greatest love we can give on the human level. Pursuing the Greatest Commandment will not take away from our other loves. It will make them more full and complete.
Third, we are incapable of this kind of love for our God on our own. By our own efforts in the flesh, we can only serve ourselves, and self-service is the antithesis of love. Our God never intended for us to generate this love for Him in our efforts or by our capacities. He has always intended to pour His love into us, and only by His love in us can we love Him in a way that will fulfill us beyond all human capacities.
Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.“
We have obtained access into God’s grace, and it is in this grace alone we can stand before Him. The grace of our God is His love, strength and everything else we need to live as His children. All our living in Christ Jesus is to be lived not by our strength but by His grace in us. That grace, Paul says, includes the love for God we must give to Him, poured into us by His Spirit in us.
Fourth, only by being focused upon a love for Him that exceeds all other loves can we “right the ship” of our living. Any of our living that is not grounded in deep love and full surrender to our God is done in open rebellion to Him. We have inherited the rebellion perpetrated by our forefather, Adam. We instinctively choose to go our own way, to do our own thing for our own purposes, and by nature most of our living is done in the flesh and not the Spirit. We are quite adept at being religious while maintaining this underlying rebellion.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 tells us, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” It is the love of Christ for us and the love of Christ poured into us that constrains on our self-living and our fleshly rebellion. This two-way love is the energy and the motivation for us to live not the self but Christ above all else. It is by our love for our God which comes to us by His love for us and His love poured out in us that the rebellion in our hearts can be finally quieted. We begin to long for the life of our God lived in and through us in place of our own lives. We can finally love our God above all other loves.
The greatest commandment is clearly our greatest challenge as well as our greatest opportunity in this life. By it all our rebelliousness and fleshly dependence can finally be overwhelmed by the love that our God will pour out in us. It is the path to our greatest life possible on this earth.
How do we begin to genuinely pursue this greatest opportunity, not in our flesh but by His grace? The best starting place I have found in my life is to begin to speak love to my God. I pray daily for His love to be poured out more and more in me. More each day, I give time to telling Him that I love Him more than any other love, more than life itself. In response, my God is pouring into me a growing love for Him.
Perhaps here is good way to start – every time you think of your God, tell Him that you love Him.