Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment.” And the second is like it, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:35-39 NKJV)
The unique message that Jesus had for the Jewish people and for our generation is that God is love. The type of love God has is defined by the Greek word “agape.” This word is most often used to describe the kind of self-sacrificing love Jesus demonstrated by coming into the world in the form of a human being who lived as a homeless teacher without worldly possessions. Finally, He went to the cross where He sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
And, God’s love is not limited to the Jewish people, but extends to everyone in the world. This really simplifies the Christian life. We do not need to focus on a lot of “dos and don’ts.” As good as the 10 commandments are, they do not cover all situations. Therefore, God had to add hundreds of additional “dos and don’ts” to guide the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. How much simpler it is to focus on these two truths:
- Is what I am doing or planning to do going to enhance or reduce my love relationship with God?
- Is what I am doing or planning to do going to enhance or reduce my love relationship with other people?
On the other hand, “agape” love is much more demanding because it eliminates the loopholes that we can all find if we just rely on specific commands that may contain ways that clever people can find to justify their actions. Furthermore, it requires that we assess everything we do against the demands of the Great Commandment.