It had almost become like a game, a competition of sorts. First the Sadducees, then the Pharisees…back and forth they went, attempting to make Jesus stumble with His words. If only they could get Him to say something, anything, that undermined or conflicted with the Law of Moses it would disprove Jesus’ claim on Messiahship.
On the heels of many unsuccessful attempts, immediately after another failure by the Sadducees, the Pharisees stepped back up to the plate: “And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:34—40)
The question, “which command in the law is the greatest?” is like asking, “Jesus, what is the greatest, most important thing we can spend our lives doing—which, of all 613 commands, should we be most focused on fulfilling?” With the Jews hoping He might defy Moses, Jesus does exactly the opposite by quoting part of the Shema as recorded in Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Then, without missing a beat, Jesus gives this expert in the law more than He asked for by quoting part of Leviticus 19:18: “love your neighbor as yourself.” Finally, so that no misunderstanding could be felt, Jesus puts the stamp of divine authority on His answer by stating that every part of the Law of Moses is summarized by these two, virtually inseparable commands. In fact, in 1 John 4:20—21 we read: If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother.
These two commands are Christianity simplified. Because God has reacted to sinful humanity by accomplishing salvation through Jesus for all who will receive it, so too has He given those who trust in Jesus for salvation simplified purpose for this lifetime: to love God and love others. So simple are these commands that if one were to fully live them out there would be need need for the 613 commands in the Law of Moses; they would already be perfectly fulfilled!
And there are no strings attached. Love for God is unselfish, loyal, and kind intention and commitment to God. It is a covenant love; an unbreakable love that never ceases to exist. To love God with heart, soul, and mind means generally to love God with everything you are, in every possible way, and to prefer nothing or no person over Him. Love for people indicates a concrete responsibility; the act of being useful and beneficial to all others. It is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person in which one gives oneself to another to bring the relationship to God’s intended purposes—to help them live as God has designed life to be lived. Love for God and others is not overly complicated, but it does require great humility, selflessness, intentionality, and perseverance.
So rather than than failing to fully relate to God, or make him the center of our lives, or guard ourselves against the Enemy’s attacks; or becoming bitter, jealous, resentful, divisive, judgmental, or hateful, we are to love God and love others. How? If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, being reconciled to God and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you are to simply put forth every ounce of effort to fulfill these two commands as an act of worship to God and expression of thankfulness to Jesus for salvation.
So how about it? Rather than pursuing meaningless endeavors and pursuits during this lifetime, how about we pursue our God-given purposes? Though such a pursuit, both individually and corporately as the church, may God be glorified and the church be unified and lost souls be brought to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.