Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

83. CAN WE LOVE WITH THE INTENSITY EXPRESSED IN THE GREAT COMMANDMENT?

 

The Great Commandment, as defined by Jesus Christ, is given in Mark 12:28-31:

 

What commandment is the foremost of all?  Jesus answered, “The foremost is: HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 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.”

 

We are commanded to love God with our entire soul, comprising intellect, will and heart, and do it continually with all our strength.  How is this possible when we cannot detect God using any of our five senses?  Similarly, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves.  How is this possible when most of us have far more affection for our pets than for our next door neighbor?

The only hope we have of fulfilling this commandment, even intermittently, is if God gives us the ability to love.  That is exactly what He did!  Each person who responds to God’s grace (Titus 2:11) and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:8; 1 John 2:2) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience instantly receives the great gift of salvation.  This gift includes but is not limited to the following:

 

  • Redemption (Rom 3:24; 8:23) - You are freed from the bondage of sin for the first time in your life.
  • Forgiveness (Mat 6:9-15; 1 John 1:8-10) – You are forgiven your sins by God.
  • Justification (Rom 3:21-26) – You are declared righteous by God; this legal declaration is valid because Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to you.
  • Adoption (Rom 3:23; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:2) – You are a joint heir with Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
  • Regeneration (John 3:1-21) - The Holy Spirit makes known to you the will of God and helps you discern truth from lie.  He occupies and purifies all the rooms of your heart into which He is invited.  For the first time in your life you are not a prisoner of sin.  You are free to pursue the path of righteousness.  This is the first day of your Christian life and you are a new creature in Christ.  This is the mechanism of your redemption.
  • Sanctification (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 1:13-16) - You are led by the Holy Spirit along the path toward holiness; this is a lifetime journey.
  • Reconciliation (Eph 2:11-22) - You are reconciled with all other believers.
  • Unification (Eph 3:1-11) – You are united with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ.
  • Glorification (Rom 8:30) – You will complete the journey along the path of sanctification when your mission in this life is done.

As we are being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, God pours out His great love into our souls and this love continues to dwell in us (Rom 5:5).  We do not need our five senses to become aware of God’s agape love.  Only after discerning the presence of this love, can we have any expectation of returning that love or loving our neighbor.