Summary: The Challenge of LIVING the Greatest Commandment
1. Read Matthew 22.37-40
2. Familiar words / phrases: not so easy to understand - & put into action in our lives!
3. Mark (12:28ff) prefaces Greatest Commandment with “The Lord our God, the Lord is one” – a cause of argument / division for 2000+ years! One God, yet also 3-in-one – the ‘threeness’, Trinity. As St Francis famously explained to his confused students: Shamrock / clover leaf = 3 leaves but one leaf, so God is 3 persons but one God! That’s doctrine of Trinity out of the way - easy!
4. In Greatest Commandment (paraphrased by Jesus from the beginning of Deuteronomy 6) the nature of love may seem to become very complicated too. First we have One God who is 3 at the same time; now we have one love that is 4 at the same time! Love that occupies and engages the heart, the soul, the mind and the strength of the faithful. A four-fold concept of the One Love
5. We could find a 4-leaf clover leaf and say that love is like that – one leaf but four leaves at the same time but that would be side-stepping the reality that, as God is one but 3 distinct ‘persons’, so love is one, but in 4 different ways. Let’s look at those 4 different ways
6. 1 The love of the heart – love in the sense of adoration, desire and compassion. Speaks of the faithful seeker of God approaching God as a loving parent, with a deep need of God’s presence, and with a sense of ‘suffering with’ (the root meaning of ‘Compassion’) God and all people as sin and evil in the world takes its toll on the whole of humanity and creation; as the faithful desires God’s saving justice and peace to be known. Love God with all your heart, Jesus says, as we approach God with adoration (prayer), desire for justice and peace, and with compassion in our day-to-day lives.
2 The love of the soul is perhaps the most enigmatic / mysterious part of what it means to be human. The soul is the ‘centre’ of the human being, eternal and invisible, created in the Image of God. The most secret part of us, the ‘seat’ of prayer. Thus perhaps the source of the most powerful potential for our knowing God – and God knowing us. Jesus says to love God with our soul – with all the potential power we have for knowing God.
3 The love of the mind is the power of our God-given intellect. Our ability to discern, grow in understanding, and develop our ideas about the nature and will of God; how the Holy Spirit works in and through us; how the Holy Spirit and Jesus teaches us and guides us. Jesus says to love God with our minds – with our God-given gifts of ever deepening our understanding of the nature and purpose of God, made known to us in Christ Jesus.
4 Finally, to love God with all our strength. The combination of our physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities. We know that one person’s strengths may be another’s weaknesses. Speaks of our humanity. Yet Jesus says nothing about not loving God with our weaknesses too, realising that in our weakness we rely on God’s strength! We should love God with and in the totality of our human condition. That we should ‘rest’ in God - for the 4-fold Love of which Jesus speaks demands our all – it can be exhausting!
7. These 4 provide a ‘balanced’ attitude of love towards God, which we could not accomplish if we employed only 2 or 3. Supposing we only loved God with our hearts and souls? Surely this would border on an emotional outpouring with no direction or purpose. Supposing we loved God only with our minds and strength? Surely this would simply be an empty academic exercise and ‘doing good works’.
8. To love God means to love God with our whole being and all our potential, and nothing less!
9. But that’s not the end of it – Jesus say’s we should love our neighbour as ourselves.
10. One often overlooked point – you know Jesus calls us to love ourselves! We live in an age where so many (perhaps especially the young) suffer from such low self-esteem and insecurity. So many suffer from eating disorders, at younger and younger age. There is ever-increasing demand for surgical procedures to ‘improve’ our physical appearance. But Jesus says we should love others – as we love ourselves (as we are), as God loves us – and God does love us!
11. In Jesus’ calling us to love our neighbour (as we love ourselves) he is saying that what we accord to God we should extend to others. And who is our neighbour? (Remember ‘Good Samaritan’)