The greatest commandment, as prioritized by Jesus, is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:36-40). As such, I believe this commandment deserves to be examined more closely than any other directive in Scripture. The question must be asked: what exactly does it mean to love God and how do we do this? One’s first thought might be the connections drawn in the Bible between loving God and obeying his commandments (John 14:15), but the corollary nature of such passages suggests that keeping God’s commandments is a result of our love for him and not the essence of our love. I believe our love for God should be a pure and simple affection for him which esteems him as valuable, beautiful, and desirable.
In Philippians 3, Paul discusses his proud heritage, his family’s respected name and reputation, his impressive affiliations, his intense religious training, and his unmatched zeal for God, but concludes by stating that it was all worthless to him compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). To Paul, knowing Christ was far more valuable than anything else in his life. Hebrews 11 speaks of Moses who grew up in Pharaoh’s palace surrounded by the riches of Egypt during the height of its power, but who “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,” (Hebrews 11:25). When Moses evaluated Egypt’s treasures compared to the value of Christ, the scales tipped unequivocally in the direction of Christ.
Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” If that’s not a picture of love for God, I don’t know what is. David though God was so beautiful that he desired nothing except to be near enough to God to be able to gaze upon him! The opposite of viewing God as beautiful is considering him offensive, and being ashamed of him. 1 Peter 2:8 warns that Christ will become “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense,” to those who don’t believe.
Finally, those who love God with all their heart desire him above all else, and are satisfied by him alone. Jesus used word pictures to tell people how desirable he was. He called himself the bread of life which satisfies anyone’s hunger (John 6:35), and the source of living water capable of quenching anyone’s thirst (John 7:37-38). Asaph desired God when he wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” (Psalm 73:25). When Moses’ desire for God waned, like any Christian’s will from time to time, he prayed, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days,” (Psalm 90:14).
I believe there are two common, yet flawed views of the greatest commandment. The first is equating loving God with obeying his commandments. Again, I believe our obedience to Christ should flow out of our love for him, but should not be confused with it or taken as a substitute for it. The second is viewing the command as another way to describe accepting Christ and changing our mind about him resulting in salvation. It would be unnatural to not love God at least a little when we realize he is no longer our enemy and that he sent his Son to die for us, but I believe that our love for God should grow far beyond accepting him as our savior and friend. In light of these observations, I have one final question for you to ponder: do you love God more than anything else?