Good News of the Greatest Mandate

Do we love God completely or only partially? The answer lies in what Jesus taught as the greatest mandate of the Old Testament.
Our denominations sometimes emphasize only one dimension of loving God. Let us learn of the more complete love taught by Jesus.
We will examine the Great Commandments in Matthew 22:34-46.
Honda & Jesus
Soichiro Honda the founder of Honda Motor Company wanted to build better quality piston rings. He took classes at a local university’s engineering school to learn how to solve the problem. Once he found the answer he needed, he quit. His teachers wanted him to continue and graduate. He told them that he knew all he needed for his business and did not want to waste time on pointless studies. The Honda Motor Company eventually became a resounding success. Education is good, but when an education takes one away from the central focus it can become a useless waste of time. Honda’s whole focus at that time was to build piston rings, not become a general engineer. Even experts in the Bible can miss the most important things (Matthew 22:34-46). Like Honda, Jesus focused on the most important thing.
Jesus as a Threat
What was the purpose of the Pharisees tempting Jesus (as the original language shows) with a trick question (Matthew 22:34)? Would Psychologists say that such vehement opposition comes from inner turmoil caused by a perceived threat? Was it perhaps similar to the motives that caused atrocities such as the Spanish Inquisition in which the Church was complicit? When the Church teaches dogmatically what Jesus taught his Apostles it carries Jesus’ authority. When the Church teaches dogmatically things that neither Jesus nor the Apostles taught, is it operating much like the Pharisees and Sadducees? How can the dogmas of a magisterium or doctrinal committee be declared infallible and inerrant teachings unless they agree with what was taught by Jesus? If he was physically present on earth today, would many church authorities accept him or also perceive Jesus as a threat?
Summing up the Faith
There are many lesser rules and human traditions which divide the Christian Church but one great and wonderful rule which unites us all. It was outlined by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39. The Bible contains many excellent summaries of right religion. Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Do what is just and right (Isaiah 56:1). Seek God and live (Amos 5:4). Live by faithfulness (Habakkuk 2:4). These are articles of faith. Jesus chose a couple of other Old Testament statements to summarize the faith. One was from Deuteronomy (6:5) about loving God and the other was from Leviticus (19:18) about loving our neighbor. These commandments were not even specifically from the Ten Commandments, though they are there in principle. They unite all of Christianity under one statement of belief.
How Love God
Do we “give our heart to the Lord”? Instead of pop sayings, let’s see what Jesus said (Matthew 22:37). We love the Lord with our entire heart, soul and mind. This is the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5), the central creed of both Judaism and Christianity. What that actually means is that we love God with all that we are and have. Is love “all we need”? Jesus said that differently too. Some forms of Christianity emphasize the heart and avoid the mind. Some varieties of Christianity are emotionless with very little heart. Some kinds of Christianity emphasize outward show but neglect the inner soul. Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament law as hanging from love. He also delineated that love as not just being empty emotionalism, but a love that includes everything in our lives: heart, soul and mind.
How Love Neighbor
The command to love our neighbor as ourselves strikes at the root of human failure (Matthew 22:39). The seed of society’s evils is love for self and reckless disregard for others. It is also very shortsighted, because ultimately love of others returns long lasting recurring benefits to us and is therefore an act of self love. We were designed to naturally love ourselves. We want food, shelter, protection, health and happiness. As we appropriately bless others, crime and other evils should decrease. All this is impossible unless we first love God with all of our being. If there is no God and if we don't love him, we may as well act just like the animals, where survival of the fittest counts. Instead of acting like vicious animals, devouring and destroying, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Universal Principle
The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) is a version of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12). Is it so important that God inspired it in other world religions, among those who have not yet come to know their Jesus as Savior? Judaism, Islam, Jainism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism are some of them. Is this principle is so vital and fundamental that God did not want to leave any creed or religion with an excuse for not knowing it (Romans 1:19-21)? Even atheists who claim that they don’t believe in God admit its fundamental importance. Some people may object that God has nothing to do with religions other than Christianity. But let’s think about it. If God also believes and follows the principle of loving his neighbor, why would he not want to spread such an important universal principle universally?
What Kind of Love
What kind of love does God expect from us? Is it the emotional love of a romance novel? Is it the sentimental love of popular songs? The word love in the ancient Hebrew scripture that Jesus quoted (Deuteronomy 6:5) and in the New Testament Greek of Matthew 22:37 were both similar to the same word in English. The word love needs a context to define it further. The context of the Great Commandments defines that love as something involving all of a person’s life: heart, soul and mind. It is an emotional love, but also an intelligent and practical love. It was a love defined in terms of a practical covenant relationship. If we look at the context of the Old Testament text, loving God by doing things for him was part of the evidence of that love.
Loving God with our Minds
One individual said he loved God and Sunday School but hated theology. But, Sunday School is theology. Any study of God is theology. Another said that we don’t need doctrine; we just need love. But, is not that also a doctrine or teaching and is not love also the principle doctrine? The anti-intellectual bias in some corners of the Church actually contradicts the Bible, because in Matthew 22:37 Jesus taught us to love God with our minds. In Greek the word literally refers to examining all sides of a matter, using thorough thinking. Wrong teachings are often blamed on God’s inspiration. In reality are we sometimes just too mentally lazy to study matters deeper than a shallow point of view? Is being ashamed of our minds also to be ashamed of God? Jesus encouraged loving God with our intellect.
Loving God with our Hearts
How do we love God with our hearts (Matthew 22:37)? If we lust after that which is not ours to have, then how can we love God in our hearts? So that makes us all guilty right? Yes, but do we go to God in prayer asking for forgiveness for evil thoughts in our hearts? Do we then fill our hearts with what is good? What about our attitudes of heart? Are we thankful to God with our whole heart for his forgiveness and other of his abundant blessings? Are we also thankful for his will when his will includes suffering? Do we fill our hearts with the things of God? Do we fill our hearts with praise and singing? Do we ask for help from the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with God’s love (Romans 5:5)?
Loving God with our Souls
How do we love God with our souls (Matthew 22:37)? The word soul in English is an ambiguous word used to translate words in the original languages meaning a variety of things like life, creature or spirit. In this passage the Greek word is psyche which can also be translated as breath or spirit. In Psalm 42 the descendants of Korah composed a song of love to God, describing the soul thirsting for God like a deer panting for water. This passionate spiritual desire is something that we often ignore with our daily distractions. If we love God with our souls, then why would we want to miss assembling weekly with others who also love God? If we love God would we also love God with our souls through prayer, Bible study and meditating on the things of heaven?
Most Important Legal Principle
Where did the idea of legally guaranteed equality come from? In the United States constitution do the words, “We the people” summarize the most important national rule? Does British law which guarantees equality for all, contradict itself by guaranteeing prerogatives of the royal family above others? The Chinese constitution clarifies a citizen’s fundamental rights and duties. The European Constitution guarantees human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and a free market. When asked what was the most important part of the law (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus explained the most important as love of God and the second most important as love of neighbor. British law favors the royal family’s rights above everyone else’s. God’s law makes all people equal in our responsibility to love one another as ourselves. Nobody may be loved more or less than ourselves. God makes us all equals.
Dogmatism & Ignorance
When Jesus asked his opponents whose son the Messiah was (Matthew 22:42) they answered with orthodox dogmatism, correct but ignorant of Christ. When churches spoon feed us with dogmatic answers that leave out thinking, they do us a disservice. They do not allow us to love God with our minds. What thinking formed the teachings of the Church? Good theology schools teach the various views of doctrines along with strengths and weaknesses of each view. One professor taught that doctrine was a 2,000 year long discussion and that discussion is not over yet. Too often we approach church doctrine as if there were no more discussion. We dare not use our minds. Jesus’ challenge to his hearers was to use their minds. If the Messiah is the son of David, how could David refer to him as Lord?
What Liberal Commie Pinko said that?
Teacher: Class, what is the most important command of all?
Seventh Day Sally: The Sabbath is the test command.
Evangelical Evie: Just believe.
Catholic Cathy: Obey the successor of Peter.
Pentecostal Penny: Tongues are the initial evidence.
Mennonite Mitsy: Submit to the Gemeinde rules.
Orthodox Orson: Follow the ancient way.
Fundamental Freddie: Obey all the rules made up by the elders.
Methodist Mel: Follow the method.
Baptist Babette: Be immersed. If you ain't dunked, you ain't really baptized.
Anglican Andy: Follow the middle way.
Teacher: What if I told you that love was the real deal?
Class: Love???????????? What liberal Commie pinko said that?
Teacher: Jesus. (Matthew 22:34-46)
Class: oh...
The Messiah Riddle
Jesus asked some religious leaders whose son the Messiah was. His answer is called the Messiah Riddle (Matthew 22:41-46). The expression "son of David" was familiar. Jesus descended from King David. The religious leaders answered that the Messiah was the son David. Jesus knew their lack of belief and that they thought of the Messiah as a mere man. He asked them why David referred to his son or descendant as "my Lord." That passage reads, "The Lord (God) said to my Lord (my son)" (Psalm 110:1). Why would a father call his son, my Lord? Because that son, the Messiah is divine. But, Jesus did not always answer a riddle. Instead he asked, Since David called the Messiah my Lord, how can the Messiah be his son? No one could answer him. Jesus challenged people to think.
Paul’s Definition of Love
The Greek word agape does not always mean divine love. In some contexts it just means love or affection. In the Bible it sometimes even refers to a wrong kind of love. Men loved darkness (John 3:19), or the praise of men more than God (John 12:43), or this world (2 Timothy 4:10). Here we see three cases where the word agape was not godly love. The verb and noun form do not have different meanings. Just like the words love or affection in English, the meaning depends on the context. A preacher's volume and enthusiasm are not always a sign of divine inspiration and quiet preaching may not indicate that truth is absent. If we want a definition of agape which is the kind of love that God expects we must go to 1 Corinthians 13.
Some denominations teach people to love God with their emotions but not with their minds. Others teach people to love God intellectually but not with their emotions. Some only focus on the things of the spirit, but not the heart or mind. Loving God is not just emotional, or intellectual, nor just spiritual but all of those dimensions. Jesus taught us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind.