Love the Lord Your God
Jesus was often challenged by the Jewish leaders of His day. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Teachers of the Law kept posing "gotcha" questions to Him, and His answers pleased the people, while infuriating the Jewish leaders.
On one occasion, the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection and eternal life, asked Jesus a stumper about the woman who had been married to seven brothers who all died, leaving her childless. Finally she died. "At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Mark 12:22 NIV)
Jesus schooled them on the reality of the resurrection, refusing to answer the particular question, but affirming: "Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:26-27 NIV)
A Teacher of the Law, seeing that Jesus had given a wise answer to the Sadducees, asked a follow-up question. But this one was not a trap. The Teacher of the Law seems to have been genuinely interested in hearing Jesus' answer to his question: "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" (Mark 12:28 NIV)
Jesus answered the Teacher of the Law by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which the Jews knew as "The Shema," because the first word, hear, is shema in Hebrew.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV)
The Shema was considered foundational to the Jews. They believed in one God, not many gods. The other religions of the world were and are pantheistic, believing in many gods. But the Living God told His people to listen up! Now hear this! The Lord your God is one. Love this one God with all you've got.
Later in history, Christianity and Islam, which both trace their roots to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, joined Judaism as the only three world religions that are monotheistic, believing in one God, not many gods.
Jesus identifies this law as the most important law. We can see why. All the other laws come from this central law. There is only one true God. Love Him and Him alone. If you love Him, you will honor Him by keeping the Ten Commandments and all the other laws that grew out of them.
So how do we love the Lord our God? The same way we love our spouse. We commit ourselves to Him, holding back nothing. Love for God is expressed in so many ways.
Followers of Jesus first think of loving God by worshiping Him. Worship is far more than attending church. Worship is making God the worthy one. It is proclaiming His worth-ship (the root word for worship). So one part of loving God is singing and praying from the heart in both private and corporate worship. The other side of worship is listening to the One who is worth all we have and responding to His Word in faith.
Here's the thing: worship is not restricted to a church service. Serving others is an act of worship. Sacrifice is an act of worship. Giving is an act of worship. Obedience is an act of worship. Resetting priorities to reflect God's Kingdom is an act of worship. And each of these acts of worship is an act of love for the God who loved us first and who redeemed us from sin and death.
We love God and worship Him when we set aside our own will and strive with all our being for His will to be done in our lives, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our church, in our places of work, in our schools, in all of our world. Loving God means putting Him first. Loving God means making Him most important in our lives.
Jesus named the second most important commandment when He answered the Teacher of the Law. "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31 NIV) More on that next week...
We are left with these penetrating questions: Do I, in fact, love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? And if I honestly cannot say I do, what step can I take to love Him more? How can I move toward a life that loves God fully?
I believe asking God in prayer to show me the next step forward in a life that honors Him and loves Him fully, then taking that next step (whatever the cost or sacrifice) moves me deeper into a life that honors God and keeps the most important commandment Jesus identified. How about just doing that today. Just ask God to show you the next step, and then do that, and see where it leads. Because as Jesus said, Loving God with everything is the most important command of all.