Summary: Do we love God completely? How do we love God with our whole heart, soul and mind? What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?
Prelude, Purpose, Plan
Do we love God completely? How do we love God with our whole heart, soul and mind? What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? We are tempted to emphasize only one dimension of loving God. Let us learn of the more complete love taught by Jesus. Let’s examine the Great Commandments in Matthew 22:34-46.
Summing up the Faith
How would we summarize our faith using the Hebrew Scriptures? The Bible contains many excellent summaries. Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Do what is just and right (Isaiah 56:1). Seek God and live (Amos 5:4). Live by faithfulness (Habakkuk 2:4). These are articles of faith. Jesus chose a couple of other Old Testament summary statements, (Deuteronomy 6:5) love God and (Leviticus 19:18) love neighbor, not specifically the Ten Commandments, though certainly there in principle. They unite all of Christianity under one statement of belief. A summary of Christianity is found in the Great Commandment, someone in love with God.
Honda & Jesus
Soichiro Honda the founder of Honda Motor Company wanted to build better quality piston rings. He took classes at a local university’s engineering school to learn how to solve the problem. Once he found the answer he needed, he quit. His teachers wanted him to continue and graduate. He knew all he needed and did not want to waste time. The Honda Motor Company eventually became a resounding success. Education that takes one away from a central focus can be useless. Honda wanted to build piston rings, not become a general engineer. We can miss the most important things of our faith. Like Honda, Jesus focused on the most important thing.
Matthew 22:34-36 Jesus as a Threat
In Matthew 22:36 an expert in Old Testament law asked Jesus maliciously, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Why did he ask such a testing question? Was Jesus a perceived threat? Did the Church sin in the inquisition because of perceived threats? When we teach what Jesus and his Apostles taught, we carry his authority. When we teach what neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught, are we like the Pharisees and Sadducees? How can our dogmas be declared infallible or inerrant unless they focus on what Jesus taught? If he was physically present on earth today, would we accept him or also perceive Jesus as a threat?
Matthew 22:37 Loving God with All our Hearts
In Matthew 22:37 Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart”. Jesus summarizes the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5), the central creed of both Judaism and Christianity, which in part is loving God with our entire heart. How do we love God with our hearts? If we lust after that which is not ours to have, then how can we love God in our hearts? So that makes us all guilty right? Yes, but we do ask for forgiveness. Do we ask for help from the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with God’s love (Romans 5:5), with what is good, thankfulness, praise and singing?
Matthew 22:37 Loving God with our Minds
One individual said he loved God and Sunday School but hated theology. But, Sunday School is theology and all study of God is theology. Another said that we don’t need doctrine; we just need love. But, love is the principle doctrine. An anti-intellectual bias contradicts the Bible, because Jesus taught us to love God with our minds. In Greek the word literally refers to examining all sides of a matter, using thorough thinking. Have you ever heard someone claim God’s inspiration for a wrong teaching? Are we excusing mental laziness? Is not being ashamed of our minds also being ashamed of God? Jesus encouraged loving God with all of our intellect.
Matthew 22:37 Loving God with our Souls
How do we love God with all our soul? The Greek word in this passage is psyche which can also be translated as breath or spirit. In Psalm 42 the descendants of Korah composed a song of love to God, describing the soul thirsting for God like a deer panting for water. This passionate spiritual desire is something that we often ignore with our daily distractions. If we love God with our souls, then why would we want to miss assembling weekly with others who also love God? If we love God would we also love God with our souls through prayer, Bible study and meditating on the things of heaven?
Matthew 22:39 How Love Neighbor
The command to love our neighbor as ourselves strikes at the root of human failure. The seed of society’s evils is love for self and reckless disregard for others. It is also very shortsighted, because ultimately love of others returns long lasting recurring benefits to us and is therefore an act of self love. We were designed to naturally love ourselves. We want food, shelter, protection, health and happiness. As we appropriately bless others, crime and other evils should decrease. All this is impossible unless we first love God with all of our being. Instead of acting like vicious animals, devouring and destroying, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.