And one of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together, and knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, What commandment is the first of all? (Mark 12:28)
Jesus answered, The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)
Jesus taught that the greatest thing we are commanded to do is to love God. The language for this commandment is intense, “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This means that it not a half hearted effort, Its not weekend only effort. It is a 24/7 effort. This verse emphasizes the intensity that the Lord looks for in this effort.
Heart (kardia in the Greek)in the bible refers to a person’s innermost thoughts and concerns. They are the things that matter most to someone. To love God with all your heart means God is very important to you, very near and dear to your heart.
Soul (psuche in the Greek) in the bible refers to someone’s life. To love God with all your soul means that God is the highest priority in everything that you do.
Mind (dianoia in the Greek) in the mind refers to thoughts. To love God with all your mind means that he is always in your thoughts.
Strength (ischus in the Greek) is self explanatory. To love God with all your strength means that your efforts with respect to God are not half-hearted. There is no token effort that is acceptable when loving God; it is full steam ahead.
I think you can tell how much a person loves God by their prayers. So many prayers look like this.
- Heal me
- Help me get that promotion
- Help me by changing that person or get them out of the way
- Help me get that car I have been eyeing
- Help my kids learn and do better in school, or even,
- Help my friend overcome her problem…
All of those prayers might be part of godly prayers as long as you are not asking amiss (James 4:3), and God is concerned about them. But they are all about us getting something from God. Asking for things is something that you do from people that love you. When you love someone you do things for them, look at the following verses from the Gospel of John:
Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. (John 15:9-14)
To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength means that you are doing things for God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Moreover, what you are doing are the things that God has commanded us to do. Certainly that means keeping the ten commandments as they are just ways to love God and men, but more than that you give in all the ways God has commanded, financially, with your time and talents, and in your care to others.
But it is even more than that. When you love someone you are involved in their lives, in what they are doing. God has a plan and a purpose. The accounts in the bible tell of God’s plan. God wants us to be part of that. Being part of God’s plan for the redemption for all mankind is part of loving God. And Jesus directs us there in his teaching to let our light shine. When we love God this way we experience the full joy that only comes with the full commitment of loving with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We can learn what it means to love the right way by looking at Jesus’ teaching on the wrong ways to love. In each of the verses below the word love is the Greek word Agapao which means selfless, unconditional love and is the kind of love Jesus wants us to do in Mark 12 above:
And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. (John 3:19)
We love the wrong way when we love darkness, sin, and things that are evil. Obvious examples of sin are murder, adultery, stealing, and lying but more subtle examples might be always having the upper hand, loving your possessions like your house and clothes or talking badly about people. We love the right way when we love the light, the truth that comes from our Lord, the ways of living that God directs.
Woe unto you Pharisees! for ye love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces. (Luke 11:43)
We love the wrong way when we love being the prominent person, the top dog, the big cheese. We love the right way when we don’t care about being the prominent person, but we serve people with humility in whatever position we are in.
Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God. (John 12:42-43)
Glory refers to displays of power. A ruler, employer, boss is glorious when they exercise their authority and cause things to happen. When people are more impressed with the power of men rather than God they are not loving God and his power and putting God first.
This next section of our Lord’s words relates directly to the Agapao love that he wants us to love with:
But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much. But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful. And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:27-38)
This is a very powerful section. The love of God is not just loving them that love you because that is not the love of God. People that just love their family or their friends are not Agapao loving. They are Phileo loving which is the love people have for their friends.
Agapao loving means loving people even when curse you or use you. That doesn’t mean that you don’t use wisdom and try to avoid problems like that. It doesn’t mean that you look for situations where people can use you or hurt you. It doesn’t mean that you don’t speak up and address people when they are wrong because Jesus stood up to people and walked away from people that sought to harm him. But you still do the godly and appropriate action in those circumstances.
Agapao loving means helping people who may not return the favor, lending to people even though they may not pay you back, being merciful and not judgmental, refraining from condemning people. Agapao loving is giving generously. And there is a principle stated and a promise given here, that however you give will be given back to you. If you give generously it shall be given back to you “pressed down, shaken together, running over”. What a sweet fruit that is.