We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/
Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 22:34-46; Romans 4; Psalm 52, Numbers 9-11.
What is the greatest commandment of the Law? Jesus was asked. And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
2 things strike me in this brief and very important encounter.
First, how liberal and humanistic “religion” tends to put the 2nd first – ignoring the fact that the 2nd must grow out of the first if it is to be real love. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is a by-product of loving God properly. Because it requires us to put the spiritual welfare of our neighbor front and center in loving him or her. We cannot love our neighbors well until we have have had a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and desire them to have the wonder of that love too. Everything else takes a back seat to that. It falls short of the love which has the eternal blessing they need so desperately – the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Second, is what it means to love in this way. Notice the 3-fold concept Jesus cites here:
To love Him with all the heart is to love Him as valued and prized above all else. And the truth is, you cannot rightly prize and value what you do not know. We must know Him to love Him so. We must grasp the revelation of Him in Creation, in His Word, and above all in the incarnation. Without a vision of His saving work in Jesus Christ, we may some sort of reverence for God – but truly love Him as the treasure of our hearts? Not possible. Only fools love what they do not know.
To love Him with all the soul is to not have our love compartmentalized, so that who and what He is, informs every part of me. My thoughts, emotions, priorities – how I govern my entire life and thought process. It cannot be a mere mental exercise, no a merely sentimental one – it must permeate my being. Outlook, purposes, reasoning, choices, all of life.
And to love Him with all the mind requires that I know the truth about Him as revealed about Him in the Word. Not an imagined God, but the God who has been displayed in His Word and ultimately in Christ.
Beloved, this is not some tepid religious, cardboard cutout of love – this is the real thing. But the real thing can only be had when we have personally and actually encountered Him in Jesus Christ. And when we have done that – we WILL love Him so.
The lyrics of that old secular song are not Scripture – but they express a very real truth: “to know, know, know Him, is to love, love, love, Him.” There is no other way to love Him, than to know Him.
So as 1 John 4:19 notes: “We love because he first loved us.”