Personal, perfect and perpetual obedience; that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and love our neighbour as ourselves. What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done.
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on those two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is a popular summary of Jesus’ teaching – but an inadequate one, because it is only half the story (and the second half, at that). The secular world is happy to approve of good relationships between people; but it rejects the essential prerequisite of a good relationship with God.
Jesus tells me that I must love God with my whole being: my emotions, my personality, my will and my intellect. This sounds like a tall order, but it is not issued in a vacuum. “We love because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) My love for God is the only logical response to His love for me – the love that sent Jesus to die on my behalf (Romans 5:8).
Love your neighbour
All (normal) people do what comes naturally: they look after their own interests and seek their own happiness. We are simply required to have the same concern for the well-being of others that we have for our own.
As Jesus demonstrated in His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the main danger is that we shall interpret the term ‘neighbour’ too narrowly. It’s relatively easy to love our friends, much harder to love the stranger – or the enemy.
These two principles are the basis of every other commandment in the Law (Romans 13:8-10). It is therefore not surprising that these were the commandments broken by the first two sins recorded in Genesis: Adam rebelled against God, and Cain murdered his brother Abel. Here, then, is where mankind went wrong; and here is where we must start again in order to put things right.
It would be a mistake, however, to think of God’s ‘law’ simply in terms of rules to be obeyed. Love is not a rule but an attitude; if we love God, then naturally we shall want to please and honour Him. And if we genuinely love God, then we shall also love all those who bear His image (I John 4:20,21).
Lord, give us the desire to love goodness,
To passionately love goodness;
Teach us moderation in all things;
Teach us to love wisdom,
And to greatly love Your law.
(from Celtic Daily Prayer: Aidan)