In Matthew 22:36–40 a Pharisee, an expert in the law, asked Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (mev, emphasis added).
Notice that Jesus made a distinction between the heart, soul, and mind; clearly these are the three different battlefronts that must be conquered. But note that the heart was number one.
He went on to say, “This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (mev).
Jesus, who was the fulfillment of the law, summed up the whole economy of heaven in two short sentences. This is the heart of the matter.
Right here we can see what’s number one on God’s priority list. It should cause us to take a good look deep down inside our hearts to see where the Great Physician might need to place His scalpel.
In this passage in Matthew Jesus makes no distinction between loving Him and loving our neighbor. In the answer He gives, they are one and the same. They’re interchangeable! He is saying that if we love Him without reservation, we will also love others in the same manner. We could also flip it around and say if we love others with reservation, then we love God with reservation.
Jesus was basically saying that the one and only way we could show God that we love Him is by loving our neighbor. Think about it.
What other way possible is there to show God our love? After all, we can’t buy God flowers. He created them and is surrounded by gardens of them! We can’t buy Him cologne. He is the fragrance that turns every stench into a sweet-smelling aroma!
So let’s examine this basic question from the experts in the law along with Jesus’s reply. First and foremost, what we must understand is that the law these experts were inquiring about and the law Jesus was referring to in His response were two totally different laws. The teachers of the law, and the One who was the fulfillment of the law, were on two different wavelengths. When Jesus was speaking about God’s law, He was speaking about the law of love, which was “heaven’s law” that promoted kindness and could only come from a heart that had been made whole.
On the flipside, to those experts in the law, the law was about the six hundred or so man-made rules that included various regulations, dietary restrictions, and requirements for one’s outward appearance. It was a religious checklist of sorts. Even though their law meant everything to the Pharisees, their interest in the law wasn’t for the betterment of others. To them it was something to get a degree in, an ego builder of sorts, a source of pride, a badge of self-righteousness that afforded them a front-row seat in the synagogue.
As we know, there was a downside to their expertise. The Bible says that knowledge puffs up, and they were as puffed up as a soufflé—high and mighty . . . that is, mighty sad!
Love, on the other hand, builds others up.
So when the experts in the law engaged Jesus in this conversation, they were not interested in how Jesus could possibly teach them something or possibly change their hearts. No, they were interested in engaging Jesus in a mind game, not in having a heart-to-heart conversation. The Pharisees’ game was all about who knew more than who. But the game we should be striving to master is all about who loves more than who.
The law of God, unfortunately, was nothing more to these “experts” than a subject matter to debate and discuss all day long. They used it as a weapon against those who would not be considered experts in the law.
Even though the law was their life, it never changed their lives the way God’s law of love is intended to.
For them, everything concerning God was north of the neck. They never gave heaven’s law a chance to travel down those eighteen inches to where it would finally be able to transform them and, in turn, transform their communities.
As born-again believers we must allow God’s love to travel down into the deepest recesses of our hearts so they can be melted and become like the very heart of God. When we don’t allow the love of God to penetrate and permeate the hidden places of the heart and bring healing to it, we will be just like those so-called experts. We will focus on the wrong law!
When the love of God is not the supreme law that rules the mind of our hearts, we will be judgmental and prideful—nothing more than decorated religious jars, void of God’s love on the inside.
We will be like those who spout off religious phrases, carry signs on a picket line, and speak in “Christianese,” but do little or nothing to lift the burden from those who are in pain. The only beneficiary in our big show is us, the showoffs. The sad part is that we can easily survive and even thrive in a church environment where many of the people are as unhealthy as we are! We become people who, though “born again,” strain out a gnat but swallow a camel—and miss the big picture. (See Matthew 23:24.)
Jesus, on the other hand, was just interested in getting out His Father’s message of love. He just wanted to simplify all the manmade laws, cut to the chase, and reduce the complicated debacle to two simple concepts that were, in fact, really one and the same: love the Lord with every part of your heart and mind, and you will, in turn, love your neighbor as yourself. But it doesn’t stop there! Your neighbor, the beneficiary of this kind of love, will then be melted by the divine, supernatural love of God that pours out of you and will one day pour it out onto someone else. When our hearts are whole, it creates a domino effect!
Now here is the problem, the crux of the matter.
- It is impossible to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself if you don’t love God with your whole heart.
- And it is impossible to love God with your whole heart unless your heart is whole!
Do you now see why having a healthy heart is of the utmost importance?
Do you see why knowing God’s Word in your mind isn’t enough?
Do you now see that the heart must be whole in order for us to love God and in turn love our neighbor?
This was all that mattered to Jesus, who was God in the flesh. When we love God with a whole heart, the by-product, of course, is that we will not only truly love our neighbor, but we will also look for ways to be kind to one another and thus allow heaven to come down to earth.
Copyright © 2015 by Maria Durso, All Rights Reserved. Purchase a copy of my new book, From Your Head to Your Heart, on Amazon here.