Behind Jesus’ greatest commandment

Some people are wanting to modify the Brazilian flag. They propose adding a word to the phrase, “Order and Progress,” written across it. They want it to read, “Love, Order and Progress.”

People know love is important. They just don’t know what love is. The Bible explains and demonstrates it. The Way of Christ is defined by it.

You know, of course, that Jesus didn’t create the commandment to love God during his time on earth, Matthew 22.37-38. It was already in the Old Testament. He did, however pick it out and join it to the commandment to love one’s neighbor in order to make the two the great hook upon which hang God’s great plan of salvation.

A look back at the original context of the greatest commandment in Deuteronomy 6.1-9 reveals some great principles about loving God.

  1. Love means obedience, 3. It’s a principle that spans all covenants. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” John 14.15, 21.
  2. Know whom you love, 4. What is God’s nature and character? Who is he, really? What is he like? What does he like and what does he hate? The oneness of God is the ground of all reality.
  3. Love must be complete, 5. For the one God, a single devotion. God’s love touches the whole of our being, and from that being must spring our love for him.
  4. Start from the inside, 6. If God’s words occupy the heart, then the actions will stem from them. This doesn’t happen by osmosis, but by purposeful reading and meditation.
  5. Learn and teach, 1-3, 7-9. We don’t know things by instinct. We must be taught. We must decide to learn. Then we must teach. Christians teach their own and those on the outside.
  6. All the time, everywhere, 7-9. Bombard your children (and everyone) with God’s words, until they get it. For Christians, this applies as well to all those who ought to obey the Lord.
  7. Love and fear together, 2, 13. Love and fear belong in the same heart. They are the twin stars of the dedicated saint. At the center of them both is God who is sovereign and loving.

When Jesus gave the great commandment to love God, he knew this context and had it in mind. He expects us to take the lessons of history and the principles of the Old Testament and apply them today. The rich spiritual life lies in making these connections. Love for God gathers all the truths of Scripture together. Let us live them all.

“God has declared one principle; two principles I have heard: God is strong, and you, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love. For you repay men for what they do” Psalm 62.11-12.

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