January 11th, 2023 – Wednesday Afternoon
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall 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, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” ~Mark 12:28-34
This is obviously a familiar passage (especially if you were in Bible Discovery Hour on Sunday), but I am afraid that it is a passage that we too easily skim over or excuse. For instance, the commands to love God and love people are simple and straightforward, yet, if we stop and ponder what loving God with ALL that we are entails…well, since it is impossible in our minds and capabilities, we dismiss it as a specific instruction. It is much easier to just say “love God and love people” and then miserably fail at both in practice.
Another skimming option is to say that since this passage is rooted in the Law and the Old Testament, it doesn’t really apply to us. Even the scribe who asked and answered Jesus pointed to the burnt offerings and sacrifices, right? To take this route, however, calls into question the unchanging authority of God and the over-arching purpose that He has embodied and ordained. These commands transcend the covenants because they are ultimately rooted in the very nature of God Himself.
Understand, when God commands His children to love Him with ALL and to love others as we love ourselves, He is commanding us to mimic His example. He already has loved us with an everlasting love through Christ: He sent Jesus to take the wrath and death that we deserved; He demonstrated that love to us even when we were still enemies of His, hopelessly alienated by our own sin; then, He poured out His Spirit on those who believe in Jesus – empowering us to live (and love) with His own power; and, finally, He continues to love us and care for us as our perfect Father.
So then, as children of God, let us choose to put our hearts, minds, and entire beings into loving Him and loving those around us with His love. This is an impossible task for those apart from Christ, but it is the way of life for those who have come to know His all-surpassing love. Therefore, the key, I believe, is to set our hearts on knowing the love of God more intimately. Then, and perhaps only then, will we be equipped and enabled to joyfully (and gratefully) love Him with all that we are and to love all others as He desires.