The Greatest Commandment
By Grant Phillips
A Pharisee, who was a lawyer, once tried to tempt Jesus with the question, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus replied to him and his Pharisee buddies as follows;
“…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Matthew 22:37-39
Deuteronomy, Mark and Luke state almost exactly the same words. All are basically saying that we are to love God so much that everything and everyone else come nowhere close to our feelings we have for Him. Even our most precious loved ones fall second to our love for God.
Jesus goes on to say that we are to love everyone, which includes any other person we chance to meet, just as much as we love our self.
So, love God even more than our closest family, and love anyone else as much as we do our self. That is a tall order. Has anyone ever arrived at that plateau? I know Christ has, but what about us?
Jesus mentions some requirements in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that are also impossible for mankind. Consider too the Ten Commandments. Only He could fulfill them all, and He did.
Should we then ignore the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments, and Matthew 22:37-39? That’s a facetious question obviously. Jesus wants us, who are His, to strive for perfection.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
By “perfect” He means that we need to be mature. Mature in our thinking and in our actions. Our Father is absolute perfection, and we are to pattern our lives after Him. Children mimic their parents and usually grow into adulthood eventually thinking and acting as did their parents.
We are expected to grow up as Christians and act like adults who have patterned their whole lives after God, instead of continuing through life as immature beings. Unfortunately, most Christians today are so immature it’s ridiculous.
1. How many of us love God more than anyone or anything in this world?
2. How many of us love all people as much as ourselves?
Two simple questions, can anyone among us say “I do” to either or both? Come now. Be honest.
Let’s take question number two first and ask ourselves just a few more questions, making it very personal.
– When was the last time I prayed for my “neighbor?” Did I put “feet” to those prayers?
– When was the last time I told my “neighbor” about Jesus?
– When was the last time I tried to uplift my “neighbor” at the expense of my own ego?
Ouch! I get the point. Do you? I suppose we have a lot to work on don’t we?
Let’s now ask ourselves a few questions about question number one above, keeping it personal of course.
– When was the last time I actually listened to what God has to say to me? He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible.
– When was the last time I obeyed His Word?
– When was the last time I talked to God without asking for something selfish?
– When was the last time I thanked Him for all He has done for me?
– When was the last time I said to Him, “I want to please you,” and followed up on it?
– When was the last time we ached inside just to be in His presence?
I know these questions are very simplified, but maybe we need to start somewhere. We can start with these, and let Him lead us on to deeper, more profound, questions as we spend time in His presence, growing in His will.
None of us will ever reach the level of perfection (maturity) God requires while we are on earth, but that doesn’t mean we are not to strive to be like Him. All of us have plenty of room to grow.
When we were children our parents would measure our height at a door facing. We’ll never reach the height of Jesus, but Jesus said, “Follow Me.” We must remember that He is the yardstick of our life, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
We live in an age I think that is very close to His return, where people, even Christians, think they can make up their own rules as they go. Apostasy has turned righteous living upon its head in these last days of the Church age.
That isn’t to say that all Christians have forgotten Christ’s response to the Pharisee about the greatest commandment. Nor is it to say that none strive to live as Jesus instructed in His response. Unfortunately though, I strongly believe that Christians who earnestly strive to please the Lord in relation to these two commandments are becoming fewer and fewer.
Many today call themselves Christians, but show no signs of their even being interested in pursuing these two commandments. I hope they are Christians, and are just immature because of their lack of spiritual growth. The scary part is the knowledge that even though some may be immature Christians, others are just playing church and do not know Jesus at all.
If there is one thing as Christians we all need to remember it is this; it’s all about Jesus Christ. He is to be glorified, not us. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, not us. He wants us to really know Him, and He has left us three means to do so; His Word (the Bible), prayer, and life’s experiences.
The more we know Him, the more we love Him, and the more we love our neighbor.