Over the past few weeks, I’ve mentioned several times the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which comes from Leviticus 19:18 and which Jesus affirms in Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27, 28. Jesus taught parables from this commandment and made other statements in regard to it throughout his ministry; it’s clear that Jesus wants us to love other people.
But what about the greatest commandment, “To love God”? Again, Jesus mentions this command in Matthew 22:37, 38, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment,” and again in Mark 12:30. But other than these references, Jesus doesn’t go into a lot of detail about what it means to love God or how to love God. Or did he?
While Jesus didn’t go throughout his ministry telling people to go to synagogue, to offer sacrifices at the temple, to read or recite God’s Word, he did explain that loving God was a matter of obedience. “If you love me, you will obey what I command…. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (John 14:15, 23). “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10). Clearly loving God is a matter of obeying his commands. So if Jesus’ ministry and commands seem to focus on loving people, then our love for God ought to be a matter of serving God by loving other people.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan to focus on himself after fasting for 40 days, Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Jesus’ undivided love for God led him to worship and service, and our undivided love for God ought to lead us to the same. Certainly we must keep our eyes focused on God, but that ought to help us see how much God loves the people he created. If you’re wondering what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, it means to worship God and serve him alone, and that ought to lead you toward loving and serving others.