We are studying through Mark in our small group at church. For the past several months, I have constantly been amazed at how Jesus displays His divine authority over everything; including demons, sickness, nature, and religion. Most recently in Mark 12, we’ve seen the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes try to trap Jesus with the “gotcha!” type questions that fill the political discourse on cable news channels.
Jesus answered, “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.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. —Mark 12:29-31
When a scribe curiously asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is (presumably looking for reasons to arrest Jesus), Jesus points back to two Old Testament commands that frame the whole of Jewish (and Christian) life: the command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (coming from Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18 respectively).
Gauging your obedience to these two commands often feels like gauging your prayer life: however you have grown, you always have more room to grow.
I’ve found the following questions helpful in both convicting me and pushing me to love my God more:1
- Is the Lord the all-consuming passion of my life?
- Do I have a deep, intense, and abiding affection for my Lord?
- Am I loyal to my God with an exclusive love?
- Do I resist and even oppose anything or anyone that seeks to do my Lord harm?
- Am I zealous to defend, with grace, my Lord’s name and honor?
- Do I enjoy spending time with my Lord?
- Do I do things that please my Lord and increase His joy?
- Do I brag on my Lord to others?
- Do I tell my Lord that I love Him?
- Do I talk with my Lord as much as I can?
As helpful as these questions are in self-examination and moving our hearts to love God, we will never keep the first and great commandment like we should. R.C. Sproul helped me see the gravity of this:
If I were to ask you, “What is the most serious sin of all?” what would you say? Murder? Adultery? Idolatry? Unbelief? It seems to me that if the Great Commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, the great transgression is the failure to keep this commandment.
That scares me, because I have not kept the Great Commandment for five minutes in my life. I have never loved God with my whole heart. My soul has never overflowed with affection for God. My mind has been lazy with respect to understanding God’s Word, and I am often more interested in learning the things of this world. Finally, I have only used a portion of my strength in my affection for God. Were it not for Jesus, I would perish because of this sin, and rightly so.2
And thank God the Father for Jesus. Not only is He the One who gives a bunch of serious sinners hope, but He also provides us the perfect example of loving God and others:
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
- “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
- “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Ephesians 5:25
- “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
- “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
- “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”” Romans 15:1-3
- “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7
- “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13
We have our work cut out for us, but with Christ’s example and the Spirit’s power, we can pursue the most excellent way: the way of love.
2 R.C. Sproul in his commentary on Mark.