Our GREATEST PRIORITY is to ‘LOVE GOD & PEOPLE’: But when the Pharisees heard that He (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:34-40)
During His public ministry, Jesus Christ was tested with a very difficult question that was posed to Him by a Pharisee lawyer, an expert in the Old Testament laws. To answer this question, Jesus had to distill through all the 613 commandments of Torah ("Law of Moses") and pick up the great commandment that was the essence of all the Mosaic laws. Jesus summed up all moral obligations in the word love, expressed in the twofold direction of God and people. Thus, the answer given by Jesus was amazingly simple that truly summarized man’s obligation: Love God and people!
Man’s first obligation is to love God with the totality of his being. Barnes says, “Love to God and man comprehends the whole of religion: and to produce this has been the design of Moses, the prophets, the Savior, and the apostles.” Then Jesus added that man’s second and equally important obligation is to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus had answered from two Old Testament scripture passages: Deut. 6:5 that speaks of our wholehearted devotion to God, and Lev. 19:18 that speaks of the implications of that commitment to love in our interpersonal relationships.
Whatever we do in our lives, there is nothing greater than to show our love, for love reveals the heart of our heavenly Father. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:7-8) Our focus must remain on the Great Commandment, which should form the greatest priority in our lives: loving God and reflecting God’s love to other people who come into our area of influence. There is nothing greater than this, and the outward manifestation that we love God is that we will obey His commandments.
There is a strong relationship between the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:36-38) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). The Great Commandment tells us to love God and others, which is modeled through different ways restated in the love chapter (1 Cor. 13). Our love for God is manifested through our obedience in purposefully loving others by sharing the gospel with others. In fact, our love for others is the sole motivating factor for obeying the Great Commission. As we share Christ and the salvation that He has achieved through His death on the cross, we truly obey the Great Commandment: loving God and people!
When Jesus recalled the greatest of the commandments, He was actually calling for agape love, a sustained and conscious choice to graciously serve God and people while expecting nothing in return. God loved us first through agape love, and He commands us to love in the same way. God’s love empowers us to love by choice and to sustain our love even in the face of hostility or rejection. Can we make loving God and people our greatest priority today?