Great Commandments

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40
 
DEFINITION: The Great Commandments are Jesus’ summary of the religious and moral message of the Scriptures of His day, and the New Testament shows their expanded application. Christians live by these two overarching principles not only in this life but also for eternity.
 
When Jesus and the Pharisees clashed, it wasn’t because they disagreed about treating Scripture as God’s Word. It was that Jesus rejected Pharisee traditions that had no basis in Scripture (Mt 15:1-9). Further, Jesus was radical in His approach to Scripture in the true sense of the word “radical,” that is, “pertaining to the root or foundation of something” (from the Latin radix, root). Jewish biblical scholars had organized all the commands of Scripture into neat lists, but evidently they disagreed about whether one command was greater than any other. When they confronted Jesus with their dilemma, He famously answered with the Great Commandments. And by “love” Jesus meant “delight, devotion, value, and esteem.”
Why are the Great Commandments so admirable? First, consider how well they summarize the Ten Commandments. Love for God (Dt 6:4-5) is the focus of commandments 1—4. The last six commandments describe ways to show love for fellow humans (Lv 19:18). Second, consider that Jesus’ life showed how to live in perfect compliance with these two laws. Third, consider that all the spiritual and moral guidelines of the New Testament can be summarized under these headings. Finally, these commands show that in the truest sense there is no incompatibility between love and obedience.
Why is love for God put above all other commands? The answer, of course, is that He is supremely lovely and lovable. No one else is as wise and wonderful and great and good and beautiful as Almighty God. Therefore, it is inconceivable that He should ask any of His creatures to love anyone else supremely. To do so would ask them to put the highest value on what does not have the highest value. And whenever they love someone else supremely, it is idolatry.
Why is love for one’s fellow human beings placed second only to love for God? Because humans alone of all God’s creation were made in His image (Gn 1:27). Every human life (preborn or near death; sick or healthy; moral or wicked) has value because it bears the divine stamp—however marred—and will live forever, either in misery or in bliss.
About things of eternal value, Paul wrote, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Co 13:13). Thus, those who learn love in this life are simply practicing how they will live eternally. Yet love in this life can never be absolutely perfect because of the effects of sin that still mar our present existence. In heaven, love will increase forever, undimmed by the presence of sin. Then we will experience the full enjoyment of loving God and our fellows with none of the complications that attend love in the present.
 
REFLECTION:
How conscious are you on a daily basis that you are living with love for God and for others? What steps could you take to be more deliberate in this regard?
 
PRAYER: Lord God, I love You, but not as much as I ought. I want to grow in loving You this very day. I desire to grow in delight, devotion, value, and esteem for my fellow humans as well. And help me to love someone today whom I do not naturally value. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Kendell Easley

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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