As I am writing this lesson Pandora Radio is playing my Gordon Lightfoot Channel. The song playing is American Pie by Don McLean. This eight and a half minute song hit number one in 1971. It is a song inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. Some consider this song to be one of the greatest of all time. Guinness Publishers make a fortune on the Book of World Records. Our world celebrates greatness. Yet, how do we determine true greatness?
The Law of Moses that set guidelines for the life of God’s people, the children of Israel, had over 600 commands (not just 10). The religious leaders would debate which of these laws were more important and one day they asked Jesus to give His opinion on which was the greatest commandment. They were at the very least, trying to get Jesus to take sides. Jesus answer is, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30). Simply put, Jesus says that LOVE is the greatest. He quotes what the Jews called the SHEMA – (Hear). The Law of Moses taught that parents were to teach this creed to their children (Deut 6:4-9) at every opportunity that they had. Jesus reminds us that the greatest love is to:
Love God with all Your Heart. Loving God with all your heart is loving Him with the part of you that feels, the seat of your emotions. This love is loving God the way you love your grandparents, your parents, and those closest to you. This is the love that brings goose bumps or warm-fuzzies.
Love God with all Your Soul. The Greek word is “psyche” a root word for our word “psychology.” The understanding is that you love God with the whole of your human essense – your breath and your life. We are to love God with everything that we are.
Love God with all Your Mind. The mind is the seat of our intellect. Loving God is not “better felt than told.” Loving God is more than a feeling; loving God is a thinking, rational adventure. When I understand what God did for me on the Cross and what He does for me in my life and for my eternity, I cannot help but learn to love Him (1 John 4:9-10, 19).
Love God with all Your Strength. This is loving God with what you can do. Demonstrate your love for God and to God by using your abilities and energies for His glory. In other words, love God until you have nothing else to love Him with and then love Him more.
How do we love God? 2 John 6 says we walk in His commandments. We do His will, we obey Him according to His terms, we worship Him and Him alone the way He wants us to worship, and we live daily for Him (cf. 1 John 1:7). We love God and not the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
Then Jesus says there is a penultimate command – the second greatest. Jesus says, to Love your Neighbor as Yourself. There are two keys to following God: A) Love God Completely and B) Love Mankind Earnestly (cf. 1 John 4:19-21). My neighbor would be any other person on earth (remember the story of the Good Samaritan).
How do we love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Look at Romans 12:9-13. We A) have Genuine Love, B) have Brotherly Love, C) Outdo each other in showing love, D) have a Fervent (enthusiastic) spirit toward each other, and E) Show Compassion (hospitality) toward others.