“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘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." (Matthew 22:36-38)
Jesus told us that we are meant to love Him with our entire being— not just in words or actions, but in all things pertaining to us. If He didn’t mean that, He wouldn’t have said it; and, He certainly wouldn’t have stressed that “this is the first and greatest commandment.” The Bible says, clear as day, that as followers of Christ, we are to love Him 'with all of our heart, soul, and mind.'
With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into this concept of Loving God. What, exactly, does it mean? Does this mean that God is a loving God; or am I referring to the act of loving God? In this case, I am referring to both.
I mean, how could I not? How could we not learn to love from the author of love; who, without second thought, deigned to have his Son pay the price of sin in our place— the ultimate act of LOVE. Without there being a precedent (or standard) for us to follow and emulate, then we would not know what love is, or how to express love.
As humans we respond to each other in kind— mimicking the things that we see and hear: which is why children emulate their parents; why so many people misappropriate the phrase, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth” (see Exodus 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21; and Matthew 5:38); and why so many people focus on “putting out good vibes or energy” (whatever that means), as they believe the universe will repay them in kind. The surface meaning of putting out “good vibes or energy” has some truth in it, which is why so many people subscribe to it as it shares the same sentiments as in Luke 6:31, where we are commanded to, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” There is more to that verse, however. If you keep reading, there is more to it than “putting out good vibes” as Luke 6:32-36 (NIV) states,
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
As humans we are looking to be repaid in kind, but the Lord is looking for us to not focus on being repaid; but rather on passing on the love, grace, and mercy that we have already received from the Father.
We are not supposed to love only the people we deem to be loveable and those who will repay that love, but also the ones we deem to be wretched and unlovable.
Why would we do that? Well, there’s a simple answer to it— Because that’s what the Lord did for us when Jesus came to die for us. We were wretched, despicable, and unworthy of being in His presence, yet He chose to dine with us, die for us, and save us because He loves us.
This begs the question: what is love if it drove the One who is blameless and perfect to push past all of our faults and save us? The answer comes in the form of two friends that are closely associated with love: grace and mercy. For through God’s love we are granted access to grace and mercy.
According to Ephesians 2: 3-5, 8-9 (NIV),
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
We were given Grace as a gift from God because we were wretched and deserving of judgement; but, instead, we were able to receive His unmerited, undeserved favor. Mercy, on the other hand, is the compassion, or refraining from granting one the punishment that they deserve. Meaning, that we were bailed out from our prison of sin and death for no other reason than God desiring for us to have a second chance to turn away from what got us in that situation and towards Him— the only One who can free and save us. Otherwise, we might as well close the prison doors and tell Him to go away. I want to stress that we should all be careful of asking that, because He will not force Himself upon you. Instead, He may give you the alone time that you so desired; and being apart from Him is not something we should ever strive for, want, or wish.
God has granted us grace and mercy on account of His love for us, showing that He is a loving God. For 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) tells us what love is.
“Love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
And 1 John 4:7-9 (NIV) reaffirms that not only is God loving, but also that He is, in fact, love.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Love bears all things: it is willing to sacrifice for others, listen to others, and build others up. These three aspects are only known— true Love is only known, or experienced— when we communicate and serve the ones we love. For one cannot love God, if they are not able to serve Him, spend time with Him, and learn of Him, all while cleansing themselves of what keeps them from Him.