To love God and love others is the heart of obedience for the follower of Christ. It is a love that crosses boundaries and prejudices.
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” (Luke 10:25-28)
How amazing is it that Jesus Christ can boil down the entirety of love in 2 sentences?
If it can be stated that easily, why is it so hard to do?
It’s because this kind of love is only possible when we focus on the One greater than ourselves, namely, Christ. It is beyond our natural ability.
To love God and to love others summarizes what God would have us do in this life to a radical degree. It is the heart of obedience.
The Heart of Two Covenants
Matthew and Luke relate this story a bit differently.
I don’t want to sidetrack us with a discussion on whether or not the Bible contradicts itself, because it doesn’t. In 3 years of public ministry, it’s likely Jesus was asked this question more than once. It’s also likely that he went on to share the Parable of the Good Samaritan that follows in each of these accounts (Luke 10:30-37). Or these could be complementary versions of the same account.
In any event, note how these two commandments are framed in Matthew and Luke’s accounts.
Matthew records the question as “what are the 2 greatest commandments”? And after Jesus shared the answer, He said that all the law and prophets rested upon them. (Matthew 22:36-40). This rooted the heart of obedience – loving God and loving others – in the Old Covenant.
Yet, in Luke’s account, it is the expert in the law that asks what to do to inherit eternal life. In response to Jesus asking what the law said, the expert provides these 2 commandments. Jesus responds by telling the expert in the law that by doing these, he would live.
Since Christ came to provide salvation through His sacrificial death (Hebrews 9:24-26), He is the provider of eternal life. In using these two commandments to answer a question about inheriting eternal life, Jesus ties these commandments into the New Covenant as well.
Therefore, the heart of obedience is consistent throughout the entirety of scripture. And when we obey these 2 commandments we provide evidence that we are genuine disciples of Christ.
The Heart of Loving God
Then what does the heart of obedience look like in loving God?
God expects His disciples to put Him first. We are to devote ourselves in every way to Him. God wants us to worship, trust, proclaim, and think about Him in all things. Our heavenly Father wants to be on the throne of our hearts.
I have found that the most straightforward path to doing this is by following the abiding disciplines. However, these aren’t magic formulas; they are a natural path that a repentant heart, surrendered to Christ takes towards loving Him.
Being the only true God, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, He would be completely within His rights to compel all of mankind to declare fealty to Him. God could demand our worship without giving any reward. He could be an impersonal God, where love only works in one direction. It would not change His glory or His deservedness, both of which are absolute.
Yet, we can take great joy in the fact that God is not like that. He is a personal, loving, giving God. When God created Adam and the beginning of the human race, God created man “in His own image” (Genesis 1:26-27). We are the only result of God’s creation in this universe described in that way. It allows us to be uniquely positioned to fellowship with Him. To speak God’s language, as it were.
The Heart of Loving Others
The heart of obedience is about loving God. It is also about loving others.
The second command tells us to extend love out to our neighbor; that is, the world around us. With the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us that our neighbor is everyone – even those who hate us (Matthew 5:43-48).
There are at least 2 simple reasons why loving others to this degree is so important.
Let’s start with this: human beings were created for fellowship with each other. The generosity of love can reach your neighbor’s innermost being. Love tears down boundaries, motivates people, answers loneliness, and provides strength for living.
Secondly, there is no greater love we can love with than God’s love. Our love can change people now; God’s love can change people for eternity.
When we love others with a radical love in the name of Christ, we are doing more than producing a good feeling. We are allowing His light to shine to everyone else. When we love to a degree that makes no sense to a lost and dying world, we open the door to sharing the gospel.
And if you wonder what radical love looks like, remember again that Jesus followed with the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus picked the most unlovable person he could think of to be the hero of a story of over-the-top care to a hurting stranger.
Who are you afraid to care for? Who would you be shocked to see loving a person in need? When we abandon ourselves to loving all our neighbors, we will be surprised by the extent our love carries us. And it will surprise everyone else. Which is the point.
Share the heart of obedience by loving God and your neighbor. If you are doing these things, you are living in the heart of obedience. Do this, and you shall live.
More verses about loving God and others:
John 14:23-24; Romans 13:8; Galatians 5:13; Philippians 2:3-4; James 2:8; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:20-21