What Is the Greatest Commandment of God?

What is the greatest commandment of God? This is the question posed to Jesus by the lawyer in todays Gospel from the 15th Sunday of Matthew (22:35-46). Is this passage familiar? It should be. We also read it on the Eighth Sunday of Luke which typically occurs about mid-November. And Jesus responds by saying that we should love God with everything we got. 100 percent. This commandment to love God we will take has a given because Jesus Himself affirms it in todays passage. Thus, the question I would like to address is this: How do I love God? The answer, if I want to put it simply, loving God is all about keeping His commandments. Jesus affirms this directly no less than four times in the Gospel of John.

15If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

21He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me23Jesus answered [Judas] and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word(John 14)

24He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. (John 14)

This directly contradicts much of todays prevailing attitudes about love that thinks it is all about feeling good or having a caring thought about someone. Keeping Gods commandments is all about choices, decisions and actions.

However, Jesus is not introducing a new concept here. The Old Testament has numerous references about how to love God. The Ten Commandments were written on tablets by God Himself and given to the great prophet Moses to give to the Israelites. The first four tell us how to love God: 1) do not have other gods before Him, 2) do not make carved images and idols, nor bow down and serve them, 3) do not take the name of the Lord in vain, 4) remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. In other words, to love God He must be first and foremost guiding person in our life, no material, man-made things can be more important than Him, whenever we use His name it must be to glorify and praise Him and not to curse Him or others, and we must not work and we must worship Him on His holy day, which for Christians is Sunday, Kyriake - the Day of the Lord, the Day of Resurrection.

When the lawyer tried to test Jesus in todays passage by asking Him which is the great commandment in the law (v.36), he is referring to this same Law given to Moses. And Jesus replies, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (v.37) which is a quote, not from the Ten Commandments, but from elsewhere in the Law. It is from Deuteronomy 6:5. The passage that contains this verse also talks about keeping the commandments of God and teaching them to our children:

1Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, 3Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Loving the Lord with all our heart and soul is repeated in Deuteronomy 10:

12And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

In Deuteronomy 30, this same language is repeated but changed slightly to say:

2and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you. 6And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 9For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, 10if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  

In other words, God understands that we will inevitably fail to love Him, and that turning and returning towards Him are also ways of loving Him.

The love of God as learned in the Law and the Prophets is exemplified in the persons of the Righteous Symeon and the Prophetess Anna, whom we commemorate today February 3rd because they are integral figures in the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord which we celebrated yesterday. In the Gospel account (Luke 2:22-40) we learn that Symeon was just and devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him (v.25). And because of this He was granted to meeting the baby Jesus and hold Him in his arms when Jesus was brought into the temple by Joseph and Mary at forty days of age. (vv.27-28) We learn that Anna was a prophetess and that she did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayer night and day (v.37). Thus, she also was granted to be one of the first to meet Christ. No doubt, Symeon and Anna loved God.

We know that loving God is only have the equation. The other half is to, as Jesus says also in todays Gospel, love your neighbor as yourself (v.39). Again, we take it as a given because Jesus reaffirms the commandment, but how do we love our neighbor as ourselves? Of course, we are familiar with the Parable of Judgment that Jesus tells in Matthew 25 that tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. But what are some other guidelines. Again, we return to the Old Testament and specifically to Leviticus 19 because this is the passage Jesus is quoting from when He says, Love your neighbor as yourself (vv.18, 34) and it contains several instructions about how to love our neighbor. Some are familiar because they were spelled out also in the Ten Commandments, numbers 5 - 10 (honor father & mother, you shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, covet).

3Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. 

5And if you offer a sacrifice of a peace offering to the LORD, you shall offer it of your own free will.

9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God. 11You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another12And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. 14You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

20Whoever lies carnally with a woman who is betrothed to a man as a concubine, and who has not at all been redeemed nor given her freedom, for this there shall be scourging; but they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.

26You shall not eat anything with the bloodnor shall you practice divination or soothsaying27You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. 28You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD. 29Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.

31Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God. 32You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD. 33And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. 35You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. 36You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37Therefore you shall observe all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them: I am the LORD.

As we can see, loving God and loving our neighbor, go hand in hand. They are interdependent. Jesus said in Matt.25, As much as you did it, or did not do it, to the least of these My brethren, you did (did not) do it to Me. This is demonstrated further in the following Scriptural passages.

15So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. (John 21:15-17)

 17But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17)

20If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (1 John 5:2)

In conclusion, what are the benefits of loving God? Not that we do it for a payback but loving God has its own rewards. Mainly, that is God will love us. Not that He does not love us until we love Him but that in loving Him, we become more aware of His love for us and we allow Gods love to penetrate our heart, mind and soul and understand how tangible and powerful it is.

5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)

23Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person.(Psalm 31:23)

10You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 97:10)

17I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

21He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (John 14)

23Jesus answered [Judas] and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14)

27for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. (John 16)

28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Source: http://stgeorgegoc.org/pastors-corner/fr-ricks-sermons/how-to-love-god-neighbor