Love: the key to the greatest commandments

October 29, 2022
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Daily Scripture

Matthew 22:36-40

35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being [Deuteronomy 6:5] and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself [Leviticus 19:18]. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

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Reflection Questions

Jewish rabbis debated: were all commandments equal or were some greater than others? Asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus chose not one but two. The first was Deuteronomy 6:4: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.” But he added Leviticus 19:18: “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Psychologists today identify the inner mechanism that made it so important to include “as you love yourself” by noting that our “superego” is the inner “critic” that leads too many of us to hate ourselves. If we hate ourselves, we surely will find it hard to love our neighbor. Jesus said the point of all other truths is to lead us to love God and neighbor more fully. God wants us to show contagious love to all we know.

  • Jesus said every key Bible principle, all the truths we know about what God wants, “depend” on the two commands he quoted. What do you believe made these two commands so central in Jesus’ thinking, teaching, and living? Can you recall any time when some belief you held led you to be less loving toward God or some of your neighbors, maybe without even realizing it? That second command can be challenging. Loving others the way we love ourselves is rooted in how God loves us—never giving up, no matter what. Our humanity makes it hard for us to love ourselves or others with God’s unwarranted, unhesitating love. But God calls us to move toward that, for our own sake and the sake of others. What has stopped you or made it hard for you to love yourself or someone else persistently? How might you love more fully?
Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for loving me unconditionally. Help me to recognize the times in my life when I need to relentlessly extend your love to those around me. Amen.

© 2022 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

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Mindi McKenna

Mindi McKenna is a 23-year member of our church. She enjoys teaching Disciple 1 and Meet Your Bible classes, volunteering with Silver Link and Global Missions, and participating in a women’s small group and in the Faith and Fellowship Sunday School class. Mindi is passionate about equipping people to share God’s love with others.

In today’s Bible verses, Jesus says that loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments. In fact, He says all the law and prophets depend on them.

This fall, my Sunday School class is reviewing how the prophets warned people against things that displease God, such as:
Insincerity: being hypocritical – pretending to worship God, but really just going through the motions.
Idolatry: turning to anything other than God for satisfaction or relying on anything other than God for a sense of security. (For example, hoping a vacation or new car will satisfy; counting on a savings account or insurance plan to feel secure).
Immorality: lying, cheating, stealing – mistreating others in any way.
Tolerating injustice: being indifferent to unfair situations that cause others to suffer.

In other words, the prophets urged people to stop living in a way that doesn’t fully love God and others. No wonder Jesus said the law and prophets depend on those two things.

At first glance, both commandments seem straightforward. In fact, if I don’t ponder them too deeply, I might tell myself, “Sure, I love God and others. I go to church, pray, read the Bible; I give money and time to help people in need.”

But then I read Jesus’ words more closely. Jesus said we’re to love God with all our heart and mind. Hmm. If I love someone wholeheartedly, I make it a top priority to know them better. To be in regular communication with them. To focus on things that are important to them and avoid doing things that upset them. If someone were to talk badly about my loved one, I wouldn’t ignore it – I’d stand up for them! Am I doing all those things for God? Am I making it a top priority to regularly talk with God and listen to Him? To focus on what’s important to God and avoid things that displease Him? Am I standing up for God when someone speaks badly about Him? Or am I just going through the motions as a Christian, looking to something other than God for my sense of security or satisfaction?

Jesus said we’re to love others as we love ourselves. If I love myself, I make it a top priority to be safe and healthy; to have shelter, food, and clothing; to have people in my life who care for me. Am I doing all those things for others? Am I making it a top priority to help others be safe and healthy; to have shelter, food, and clothing; to have someone in their life who will care for them? Or am I indifferent to others’ suffering – tolerating injustices in the world because I’m too busy, too focused on my own concerns? To love God and others the way Jesus describes is incredibly beautiful and exceedingly difficult. I can’t do it through my own willpower. Instead, I need to humbly, repeatedly, pray: “God, please help me love you wholeheartedly. Please help me love others as deeply as I love myself.”