All of God’s laws are bound up in two commands, which we call the greatest commandments.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Both these commands are about ‘love’: loving God and loving our neighbour. That love, however, is not the sentimental, romantic or sexual love which distracts worldly people. It is a commitment of devotion, giving the other priority place.
I like the working definition of God’s kind of love as “wanting the best for someone else, despite the personal cost”. That has nothing to do with lust, sentiment or romance. It is about commitment and focus on the other.
In these two commands are the ‘character qualities’ required in order to live them out.
If we are to love God with all our being, what does that demand of our character?
I suggest that it challenges our Pride. People who rebel against God are exalting themselves against God, as the devil did. The devil rose up and wanted to take God’s place.
“You said in your heart: I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the far reaches of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:13,14
The Apostle Paul advised against promoting someone who was not well established in the faith, since that would lead them to pride, which is what condemned the devil.
“Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” 1Timothy 3:6
Loving God with all our being requires that we live humbly with our God, not thinking we know better and not pressing for our own way and our own ideas.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is right. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Pride, by our high regard for self, self-reliance, demanding our own way, thinking we know better than God, or can at least do quite well without Him, and our self-focused living, has to die in order for us to fulfil the first and greatest commandment, to love God with all our being.
The key character quality required to fulfil the second greatest commandment is that of selflessness, as opposed to selfishness. The second greatest command requires that we love our neighbour the same way we love ourselves.
This calls for the death of selfishness, since we cannot elevate ourself over others. Instead of ‘looking out for Number One’ we look out for all. We care what is happening to those around us. We notice the one in need, or under oppression, and do what we can to help, just as we would do for ourselves.
We see the hungry and feed them. We see those who have needs and meet those needs. We see the widow and orphan and the powerless and we take care of them.
God reveals the importance of these things when he challenged Israel’s religious people for fasting, but oppressing people at the same time. God said he would reject their fasts, then God explains what He considers to be the more important things to do.
“Is not this the fast I have chosen, to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and remove every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring home the poor and homeless, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6,7
So I see Pride and Selfishness as the two things that have to die in order for us to fulfil the great commandments. In fact we need to have humility and selflessness in order to fulfil any of the law of God.
Yet our culture, the world we live in, promotes personal pride and promotes self-focused living. We are indulged with all manner of goods and technologies and we are encouraged to have things the way we want them.
At times I notice parents doing this with their very young children, asking what the child wants to eat, for example. I have heard some rather spoiled children lecturing their parents about what they want and how they want it. To my surprise the parents then served that wish as if it was sacred. Yet each of those children has to eventually die to their selfishness in order to please God. So supporting that selfish focus can’t be best for the child in the long run.
The West’s enthusiasm for promoting self-esteem similarly can have the side-effect of fostering things the child will have to die to in order to walk humbly with God.
We are to think soberly about ourselves, and that includes seeing who we are in comparison to God, and deciding to stand humbly before Him, serving others instead of indulging ourselves.
“By God’s grace given to me I say to all among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to, but to think with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has assigned.” Romans 12:3
I challenge you to audit your life and your heart and check how much of your time, money and energy is focused on serving yourself and going your own way. How does that balance with time, money and energy invested in serving God and loving others, sacrificially?
Ponder Paul’s words to the church at Colossae.
“Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, deep compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering” Colossians 3:12
Dear friends, Pursue Humility and Selflessness, so you can fulfil the laws of God.