One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘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 mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28–31
Jesus captures the heart of the 10 Commandments. They are not meant to be simply things that you do (or don’t do) but rather a way of being: love God and love your neighbor. Oh, and by the way, you cannot choose to love God more. “Today I am going to love you more, God.” Love does not work that way. I have met a handful of people over the years who I would say loved God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am certain, however, if asked they would say something like, “I try, I long to, but sadly, I am far from there.” The person that is closest to God realizes more than the rest how far they are from where they want to be.
Yet that is our goal, the sum of the 10 commandments, the heartbeat of God. Why? Is God so needy that he is only comfortable if people love him most? Is he like C.S. Lewis complained he was before he met him personally, “like a vain woman who wants compliments?” Not at all. Instead, God is our maker, created, designer. He formed us, he shaped us, he made the world and everything in it. He knows, that it is only as we connect into our maker that we the “made things” will experience our life in the way that the maker intended us to – with joy, hope, love, peace and purpose. Absent our connection with him, God knows that we will become out of tune, bitter, broken, violent, depressed and dysfunctional. If you do not believe that this happens, read a newspaper or simply keep a journal of your daily thoughts.
God want’s us to experience fullness – what Jesus calls abundant life, the whole reason, he told us, why he came (John 10:10). This life as God intended starts with loving God, which in turn starts with spending time with him and asking him to help us to love him more. This life also can only be found when we are in relationship with the needy, the poor and the marginalized — because in them, we actually meet Jesus (Matthew 25). Two strands, love God, love the poor* work together to shape us into people who experience the extraordinary way of Jesus, the abundant life, a life of purpose, meaning and impact, a life of contentment not worry, a biblical life that makes us shine like a city on a hill.
Peace, hope and love
*The biblical word for hospitality means lover of stranger. When Jesus was asked how to identify our neighbor, he told a tale of the rescue of a man whom society was just waiting to die.