Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is Love our Only Commandment?

Taking a slight break from Galatians, I have been thinking about the question of whether or not love is our only commandment. After all Yeshua did say the following:

Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This passage is pretty clear. We are to love God and our neighbors. In fact, all of the Bible has this commandment as a foundation.

In many ways this makes sense since God also says this:

1 John 4:7-8 (KJV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

And in some sense love is what defines God (If we, as humans, could really do that!) Yet, couldn't we also say that God is defined by His holiness, righteousness, justice, or mercy? Or are all these characteristics just different aspects of God? Some say God's overriding characteristic is His holiness and that everything else flows from that. It would seem that our human language is not able to capture God by one word.

I think that is true of our responsibilities to God, as well.

Micah 6:8 (KJV)
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Is this command different from the overarching command to love? Obviously, it really isn't, it just explains in a little more detail and in different words. In fact, I've heard that "walking" with God is what we ultimately are to do, that it encompasses every one of our responsibilities.

So I guess my point is that it is really impossible to describe God's commands to us by using one word. Perhaps "love" explains it the best. But when Yeshua stated the two commandments He was making a summary just like God had before in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Leviticus 19:18 (KJV)
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

The problem is that humans are notoriously self-centered and half the time don't really understand how to love either God or our neighbors. So even if we want to love God and our neighbors how are we to know how to love? Thankfully, God didn't leave us without a description of what that love looks like. It is called the Torah. Yeshua then amplified and fleshed out even further God's Torah commands in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6, and 7).

So is love our only commandment? Yes, and no. God said this before His command to "love God" in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:1-2 (KJV)
1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.

God also said this:

1 John 5:2-3 (KJV)
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

1 John 2:3 (KJV)
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

We demonstrate our love for God and others by keeping God's commandments. Although love may be the summary of the Law, the details are explained for us in the Torah. It is wrong to assume that love, without an understanding of what is looks like, will fulfill God's requirements.

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