In Matthew 22, some Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. In verses 37-39 Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (GNT). Jesus was very clear that we should love God first and then our neighbor.
On the night before the crucifixion, at the Last Supper, Jesus gathered His disciples around for one final teaching. In John 13:34 Jesus said, “And now i give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” Jesus was adding that now we have to love other believers as well.
Sometimes the hardest people to love are within the walls of our churches. We find it easy to go out and love the homeless, the orphan, the destitute and the broken, but that’s not how Jesus said they would know we are Christians. Are those things necessary? Yes! Those are our neighbors. What’s difficult for so many of us is to love the person on the pew next to us or in the church across town. And that’s who Jesus commanded us to love on His last night. He knew we would struggle with this.
Jesus once said, “A house divided can’t stand.” Since that time, the enemy has tried to divide the Church. We’re divided into denominations and now we split churches because we grow to hate our brothers. If we’re going to be effective in loving our neighbors, we’ve got to love each other first. We need to put down our grudges and love each other instead. Until we get that right, how will the world know we are truly His disciples? If you’re holding a grudge, slandering or angry against another believer, you’ll find it’s difficult to obey the first two commandments effectively. Learn to love your brother (or sister) in Christ whether you think they deserve it or not.
When it comes to keys on a key ring, I’m a minimalist. I’ve got my car key and a key to an office. I don’t even have a house key on there. I’ve got friends though who have lots of keys on their key chain. They’ve got a key for every door in their life on their key ring. I’m not quite sure how they remember what key goes to what, but they know. Every key on their ring has a purpose. What’s great about keys is that they open locked doors. So when I read that their is a key to life, I immediately peeked up.
Deuteronomy 30:20 says, “You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (NLT). The first key to opening the locked doors in your life is loving God. Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment of them all. It’s the master key of you will. When we love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, our purpose in life becomes clear and doors open.
The second key is often the toughest for us. It’s to obey God in whatever He tells you to do. I believe in simple obedience. I expect it from my son and God expects it from us. It’s the faith to simply act on what God says without always understanding why. We have to trust that God sees the bigger picture of not just our life, but all lives and how they’re connected. Our obedience never just affects us. It has a ripple effect across His Kingdom.
Finally, is to commit ourselves firmly to Him. We’ve got to get past our commitment issues and cling to God through thick and thin. Just like we make a vow at our wedding, we need to make a similar vow to God. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death unites us. We can’t allow ourselves to be seduced by the things of this world causing us to break that vow. We must fully commit to Him. When we do these three things, I promise you that locked doors will open because these are the keys to life and blessings.
One day, there was a religious leader who wanted to trap Jesus. He asked Him which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus knew what was in his heart and replied that we must love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. What the leader wasn’t prepared for was what Jesus said next. He said, “A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself” (NLT). He knew if we could do these two things, we could fulfill the law.
The first one seems easy enough. We are to love a perfect God with everything in us. The second one, that’s equally important, is the tough one because people are imperfect. People do things that make us mad, offend us, hurt us, and drive us nuts. Yet Jesus is telling us to love them with everything in us as much as we love God. Why would He put that pressure on us? Why can’t we just love God and go to Heaven?
I believe God wanted us to learn to look past each other’s faults to see what He sees in them. Genesis 1:27 tells us what to look for. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Each of us are made in God’s image, even the people you can’t stand. God put His likeness in each one of us and its up to us to learn to see it the way He does.
If you look for the best in others, they will look for the best in you. If you learn to see God’s image in them, you can learn to love them because we can easily love God. It’s tough sometimes to dig through their layers to find it deep inside them, but His image is in there. When we learn to see Him in others, and to help them see His image in themselves, we begin to see the world through different lenses. We begin to know as we are known and also to fulfill that second, but equally important commandment. Look deeper into to others today to find God’s image and fulfill the law of Christ.
One of the things I firmly believe is that changed lives change lives. The greater work that God does in someone’s life, the greater the desire is to tell others. In Luke 7, Jesus was eating at the house of a religious leader. A woman in town, who had lived a sinful life, heard that Jesus was there. She grabbed an alabaster jar of oil and went to see Him. When she came into the house, she began to weep. She then bowed at His feet and wiped the tears off of them with her hair. She then poured the perfume on them as everyone in the house just watched.
The religious leader began to doubt who Jesus was. Luke 7:39 says, “When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives!’” (GNB). Jesus spoke up and offered a situation to him. He told of two men who owed the same person money. One person owed 500 and the other 50. Neither had the ability to pay off their debt. The debtor forgave both debts. Then Jesus asked, “Which one, then, will love him more?”
Jesus’ point was that those who are forgiven of more sins, love Him more. Those who experience a greater change in their lives show more gratitude. They had a bigger debt that was canceled than those who were raised in church and never lived a life full of sin. Both types of lives are changed when they receive Jesus as their savior and both have an obligation from that point on to help lead others to the One who can change lives. He more change we experience at salvation, the more we are compelled by love to help others.
To demonstrate this, Jesus then showed a comparison between this woman’s actions and the religious leader’s actions. He told how the religious leader hasn’t provided water to wash Jesus’ feet, but this woman hasn’t stopped washing them with her tears. He also didn’t greet Jesus with a kiss, and this woman hasn’t stopped kissing Him. Then in Luke 7:47, Jesus said, “I tell you, then, the great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.”
The greater the change God makes in your life, the more natural it is for you to want to change other’s lives. The great news is that if you’re a Christian, God has changed your life and you have the ability to now tell others what God has done for you. When you share your story of redemption with others, you open the door for their life to be changed. The more lives that are changed by God’s love, the more people we will have out there changing other people lives. The cycle of change starts with you and me.
Michael Jordan. Wayne Gretzky. Albert Einstein. Wolfgang Mozart. Muhammad Ali. Oprah Winfrey. Mother Theresa. These are some of the greatest names in their respective fields. A list of greats could go on for days and include a lot of people. If we extended it to other things like cars, cities, foods and other things, the list would be even larger. People will always debate on who is or what is the greatest in everything, but there is one thing that there is no debate on and that is the greatest commandment in the Bible.
It was settled by Jesus in Mark 12:30. One of the religious leaders of the day approached Him and asked, “Of all the commandments, which one is the greatest?” When you think of all the commandments in the Bible, this is a legitimate question. It’s one that anyone would want to know. God’s first commandment was to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam and Eve broke that one. Later God gave 10 Commandments to Moses. The first one on there was “Thou shalt not have any other gods before me.” They were breaking that one as it was being etched in stone.
When God gives commandments, we tend to break them. We act like a child does when a parent tells them not to do something. “Don’t touch that stove. It’s hot!” And the kid looks at you and touches it anyway. When we think of commandments, we equate them to “Thou shalt nots”, but when this man asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, He didn’t give him a “Thou shalt not.” Instead, He gave him a “Thou shalt do.”
In Mark 12:30, Jesus answered with, “Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” It sounds like such a simple thing to do, but we struggle with each of these areas at times. We might be able to love Him with our heart and soul, but don’t know how to love Him with our mind and strength. It’s tough to love God in all four areas, but when we do, we have the ability to accomplish great things. Our name could be on that list of greats when history looks back on us.
This week I want to focus on each of those areas to see how we can love God in each of these areas of our lives. If that is the greatest commandment, then we should work on doing it as Christians. I believe that if we can love Him in each of these areas, not only will our lives change, but our world will too. It’s time for believers to quit complaining about how bad the world is and to start doing something to change it for the better with our lives. I believe it starts right here in this verse. What do you think?