Summary: You can't truly others and love God until you understand what it means to love yourself.
We’ve come to one of the most important passages in the New Testament. Jesus reveals what He considers to be the MOST IMPORTANT commandment in the entire Bible—to love God. And He volunteers the second most important commandment—to love our neighbors as ourselves. Since this is a very important teaching, I’ve decided I’m going to make this a two-part message. We’ll begin it today, and finish it later this month.
Everybody has a different idea about what love is. As Forrest Gump said to Jenny, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” Do you?
Here are some children’s definitions of love.
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl, age 5
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann, age 4
“My mother says to look for a boyfriend who is kind. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll find someone who is kinda’ tall and handsome.” Caroline, age 8
“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren, age 4
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca, age 8
These last two are my personal favorites:
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.” Bobby, age 5
“You really shouldn’t say, “I love you” unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica, age 8
The context of our passage is Jesus in Jerusalem a few days before the cross. The religious leaders have been asking Him trick questions to try to get Him to incriminate Himself. But Jesus is too wise. Finally, someone asks Him a serious question.
Mark 12:28-34. “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
This teacher of the law was probably part of the antagonistic crowd questioning Jesus. But when he heard how Jesus answered crooked questions with such straight answers, he decided to ask him a serious question. The Jewish Rabbis had isolated 613 different written commandments and another 1,400 oral commands. Jesus first quoted from Deuteronomy 6 about loving God and then He combined it with a command from Leviticus 19 about loving your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus first established Who God is: He is the One true living God. Then He moved on to reveal the main thing God expects of us. In other words if you could somehow enter into the throne room of heaven right now and kneel before your Creator and ask Him, “God, what is the MAIN thing you expect of me?” He would say, “I want you to love me with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” If you said, “Okay, I’ve got that. Is there anything else I can do to please you?” God says, “There is one more thing. I want you to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”
Jesus was talking about three levels of love. He talked about loving yourself, loving others, and loving God. To me, it’s like climbing a ladder. You have to start on the bottom rung before you can climb up to the top. I don’t think you can truly others and love God until you understand what it means to love yourself. So let’s start at the bottom rung and talk about the three levels of love.
1. I AM FREE TO LOVE MYSELF WHEN I SEE MYSELF AS GOD SEES ME